TAMPA – It is hard to be a high school lacrosse player in Florida.
Sure, the talent has improved and players are developing skills at an earlier age, but there is a stigma involved with Florida – or anywhere that isn’t the Northeast.
Truth is, lacrosse is a sport dominated by the Northeast and organizers up that way want it to stay that way. Fortunately for Florida players, Northeast coaches are starting to take a peek at the talent in the South.
Jesuit attackman Stephano Mastro became one of the first Florida lacrosse players to accept a Division I scholarship when he signed with Mount St. Mary’s in Emmitsburg, Md. He’ll be playing attack at The Mount next year after he hopes to lead Jesuit to a state title.
Mastro said it’s been a chore and he hasn’t regretted it a bit. Knowing that most Northeast college coaches have limited budgets and can watch dozens of kids in the typical Northern hotbeds for lacrosse, Mastro took his game to them, going to every camp he could. For while he dominated Tampa-area lacrosse last spring with 30 goals and 26 assists for the Tigers, he knew he had to reach out to be noticed.
Mastro has lived in Florida his whole life and has been playing lacrosse as long as he can remember. He got his start after meeting up with some friends at the Academy of Holy Names and was hooked. He started visiting colleges and camps every summer and, instead of waiting for recruiting letters, he started recruiting colleges.
He sent tapes and played club lacrosse all over Tampa and got to make the right connections. The lacrosse fraternity is very close knit, but Mastro was determined to break through.
“I’ve had to play out of state and make a lot of trip,” Mastro said. “I had some offers and last summer I knew I had a chance.”
He had a choice between the mountains and the ocean in Maryland. Salisbury State, about a half-hour from Ocean City, Md., was also talking to him. Both Mount St. Mary’s, located in western Maryland, and Salisbury offer solid lacrosse programs, but Mastro said the chance to attend a private college was important to him – so he chose the Mount.
He’ll get plenty of chances to show if Florida lacrosse can compete at the top level. Mount St. Mary’s plays the lacrosse big boys, schools like Johns Hopkins, Maryland, and others that feed at the top of the lacrosse food chain. He said he’s ready for it.
“It’s exciting,” Mastro said. “We play great lacrosse in Florida and a lot of people don’t know that, so if I can make an impact, that would be great.’’