Blossoming Miami Sol Program Unites Those With Shared Passion for Lacrosse

PHOTO COURTESY OF MIAMI SOL


This Hispanic Heritage Month, USA Lacrosse is excited to showcase the growing lacrosse scene and the diversity within one of its most promising programs — Miami Sol. Throughout the month, we will share first-person stories from members of the Miami Sol program, their proud heritage and the love for lacrosse that binds each together.

Over the past two decades, the growth of lacrosse in the state of Florida has been as strong as virtually any other part of the country. From the rise of new collegiate programs to the sanctioning of the game at the high school level, Florida reflects wonderful growth in virtually all corners of the state.

That growth even extends to southeast Florida, where sports like football, baseball and soccer have long been the staples. Recent transplant Jenna Martino-DiFede, who moved to Miami just over two years ago, is eager to keep building on the lacrosse momentum started by others, especially among girls in the region.

Almost immediately upon moving to Miami, Martino-DiFede, a former collegiate player and coach, began doing private lessons. That led to volunteer coaching opportunities with some of the local high school teams.

Ironically, it was the shutdown of activities from the COVID-19 pandemic that led Martino-DiFede to the next step — starting a new club program.

“I saw that so many of the kids that I had gotten to know wanted to play,” she said. “I had wanted to start a club program since I arrived in Miami, so there was no time like the present. Once I decided to move forward, it came together really quickly.”

Martino-DiFede launched the Miami Sol, a new club team for high school girls, in September, and is hands-on as the team’s coach. With plenty of talented athletes across the region, many of whom are eager to be back on the field, she found that the roster was easy to fill. In fact, she quickly added a second team.

“I didn’t want to turn anybody away,” Martino-DiFede said.

With approximately 140 girls divided across six teams, the Sol features a mix of players with varied levels of experience. Some play for the high school teams that Martino-DiFede has worked with, while others are relative newcomers to the sport.

The Miami Sol teams feature a mix of players who are united through their shared passion for the game. The roster reflects the diversity of the region, including many players with Hispanic roots. In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, USA Lacrosse will highlight Miami Sol players who come from different backgrounds but share a passion for lacrosse. They may trace their lineage to different areas of the world, but the common interest in lacrosse is what has allowed this team to mesh.

“The great thing about Miami is that it’s a huge melting pot of people, from all types of backgrounds, races and ethnicities,” she said. “We have a huge opportunity to introduce our sport to so many different people.”

The stories below will be updated throughout the remainder of Hispanic Heritage Month.







CHRISTINA PEREZ

Age: 16
Heritage/Nationality: Hispanic

My heritage means everything to me. It has made me closer to my family and our traditions. Growing up with my grandparents has shaped me into who I am today. I will always appreciate my grandparents teaching me how to make traditional Colombian dishes like empanadas and arepas while keeping my Spanish in shape. I keep up my heritage by enjoying delicious dishes I was exposed to since birth.

BEATRIZ "BEE" ERDMANN

Age: 16
Heritage/Nationality: Hispanic, Cuban

My Hispanic heritage means a lot to me because it is who I am. I am a proud Cuban woman, and I will continue to be for the rest of my life. I celebrate my heritage through time with family, my grandparents telling me stories of their life in Cuba, and through holidays and traditions.

Being a Hispanic lacrosse player means a lot to me because there are not too many of us in the world. I am proud of who I am and where I came from, and I am blessed everyday with the privilege and opportunity to represent my Hispanic community through my sport.

ALISSA GONZALEZ-MIR

Age: 18
Heritage/Nationality: Cuban American

My Hispanic heritage is a big part of who I am. Knowing where I came from is important to me, and sharing in all the traditions makes me feel closer to my family.

[Lacrosse is] not a very popular sport in Latin American countries, so I’m proud to represent my heritage while playing. I used to play soccer, which is a popular sport in Latin cultures, so I was able to apply what I knew from soccer to lacrosse, which helped me instinctively.

AMANDA RODRIGUEZ

Age: 16
Heritage/Nationality: Venezuelan

For me, my Hispanic heritage reassures me. Born and raised in Miami, a melting pot of many different cultures, it is very easy to forget that although we share traditions, I am my own person. My Hispanic heritage reminds me of my family’s story and reassures me that I, too, belong to that history, even if I was born in the United States. I celebrate that heritage today by representing my country whenever I can, through school, food and my day-to-day conversations. ¡Viva Venezuela! 

VALENTINA ARIAS

Age: 17
Heritage/Nationality: Peruvian/American

My Hispanic heritage is what makes me, as an individual, me. Growing up, I was definitely raised differently than most of the students in my classes, but I would never give up how I was raised to be raised like how many other children were. I grew up as a bilingual child whose parents introduced her to her Peruvian culture through many ways. Some would include traditional dances, Noche Buena, meals, Peruvian festivals, spending time in Perú and so on. I am extremely grateful to my parents because even when they left Perú in the early 2000s, they still brought their Peruvian culture to America and taught my siblings and I the ways of our culture.

SOPHIA BACALLAO

Age: 15
Heritage/Nationality: Cuban American

My Hispanic heritage means that I am a proud member of a culturally diverse and vibrant community. It means I get to embrace a rich history while forging my own identity as a Cuban American. I celebrate my heritage each day by working hard both on and off the field. It is important that I take advantage of every opportunity, since we enjoy freedoms many people don’t have.

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