In just 10 years, the Tritons Invitational soccer tournament at Mariner has grown from meager beginnings as a four-team tourney into the 24-team showcase that it has become.
"It's the only regular season soccer tournament between Miami and Tampa," said Mariner athletics director Vito Mennona. "Sarasota used to have one, but it's been moved to Clearwater, I think. It's a real opportunity for out kids in this area to experience something that no one else has."
Play this year begins Friday and finishes up Saturday. With 12 boys' teams and 12 girls' teams, the tournament has outgrown the school campus. Games are scheduled both at Mariner and at the Cape Coral Sports Complex on Trafalgar Parkway. Champions will be crowned based on a points system as well as a series of tiebreaker decisions.
Admission is $5 per person, age 6 and up.
"We started with only four boys' teams," said Mennona. "We did that a couple of years then we added four girls' teams. Then we went to six teams and 12 teams now."
The tournament was set up for six Lee County Athletic Conference (LCAC) teams to play four games against six non-LCAC teams. Teams play two games each day. Community School of Naples' boys' team dropped out late last week opening a slot that Cypress Lake stepped up to fill.
"I'm shocked that we are the only tournament between Miami and Tampa," said Mennona. "Shocked especially the way soccer is growing nationally. I don't know why. I don't want to judge others, but it takes a lot of work and coordination. We have a strong soccer culture at Mariner, and that's in no small part due to coach Martin Cardenas here and the parents with our program challenging for district championships every year. And with like 700 kids in the Cape Coral Soccer Association program."
The Tritons Invitational obviously fills a void, and programs outside the area have taken notice. Mennona says he has been getting phone calls from Orlando area teams interested in the tournament, so continued growth and prestige are assured.
"We might consider putting six Lee County teams up against six teams from outside the area," Mennona suggested. "Having teams willing to travel here for a couple of days is good because it's nice for our kids and parents not to have to travel and get to sleep in their own beds."
Lee County teams participating include the host Tritons, Island Coast, Ida Baker, North Fort Myers, South Fort Myers, Riverdale and Cypress Lake. Outside teams include LaBelle, University (Orlando), Immokalee, Lely and Barron Collier.
In the girls' tournament, Community School of Naples remains as a participant along with other non-LCAC teams LaBelle, Evangelical Christian, Bishop Verot, Barron Collier and Lemon Bay.
Binns aids Navy running game
Cape Coral's E.K. Binns contributed to Navy's 34-7 victory over Army last weekend in Philadelphia by clearing the way for the Midshipmen's gruelling running game.
Binns, a graduate of Island Coast High School, is an offensive guard. He helped Navy extend its winning streak over the Black Knights to 12 straight games