Forza Stefano Water Polo Tournament Begins Friday At Academic Village Pool

By Sharon Robb

The inaugural Forza Stefano Water Polo Tournament will carry on the legacy of a beloved young water polo player and swimmer taken too soon.

The boys and girls tournament, hosted by Pembroke Pines Charter athletic department, is scheduled for Friday, 2-9 p.m. and Saturday 8 a.m.-noon at Academic Village Swimming Pool.

All tournament proceeds benefit the Forza Stefano Charitable Foundation which is helping raise awareness in teen cancer.

Stefano Dioguardi was a well-liked student-athlete. The 2015 Pembroke Pines Charter graduate was an avid swimmer and water polo player. He was the water polo team’s captain and inspirational leader. He was also a member of the South Florida Water Polo Club for five years.

Dioguardi succumbed to Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare and aggressive form of cancer. Two days after turning 18, he learned he had the disease.

The first-year tournament has attracted an impressive field of ten teams including South Broward’s girls’ team and Pembroke Pines Charter boys’ team.

The Bulldogs (8-2), led by Emma Leto, are coming off an impressive 18-0 victory over St. Thomas Aquinas. Pembroke Pines Charter, led by Marcos Pacella, Thomas Bayer and Seth Lawrence, is coming off a 22-11 win over Plantation.

Six teams are entered in the boys’ competition. Pembroke Pines Charter and Cypress Bay are in Group A and South Broward, Spanish River and Northeast are entered in Group B.

Four girls teams are entered in the double-elimination tournament. They are Pembroke Pines Charter, South Broward, Cypress Bay and Spanish River.

Each team is guaranteed three games.

Food, raffles and Forza Stefano Charitable Foundation merchandise will be available.

The Foundation was created in Stefano’s honor to give back to the special community of water polo players and families who rallied around Stefano and his family in their time of need.

Whether it is providing funds to cover travel costs for competitions or assisting individuals that face catastrophic medical expenses such as Stefano’s. There is a profound recognition by his family of the obligation to “pay this generosity forward.”

The kindness of friends and strangers alike gave the Dioguardi family hope during their son’s battle which they are eternally grateful. The Dioguardi family hope to share some of their knowledge and experiences with Ewing’s Sarcoma.

Sharon Robb can be reached at

SOFLO Among Top Teams At Southern Zone South Sectional Championships In Plantation

By Sharon Robb

South Florida Aquatic Club will be well-represented at the Speedo Championship Series Southern Zone South Sectional Championship that begins Thursday at Plantation Aquatic Complex.

Twenty-eight talented swimmers will represent SOFLO during the four-day meet.

They are: Max Asnis, 17; Tyler Bland, 15; Heath Brames, 17; Maya Coffey, 15; Juan Diaz, 17; Jonathan Farah, 19; Kathleen Golding, 16; Molly Golding, 13; Kelley Heron, 17; CJ Kopecki, 17; Elise Larin, 15; Luke Lezotte, 15; Ervin Marin, 17; Melissa Marinheiro, 19; Leonardo Mateus, 15; Matthew Menocal, 17; Abby Oyetunji, 17; Delanie Perez, 16; Kevin Porto, 17; Samuel Quintero, 16; Ricardo Roche, 17; Jennifer Rodriguez, 16; Jessica Rodriguez, 18; Rafael Rodriguez, 15; Marc Rojas, 23; Juan Serna, 15; Marianna Serrao, 15; and Luis Villanueva, 17.

If the seeds are true to form, there will be some great head-to-head matchups for swimmers and teams.

Isabel Ivey, 16, of Gator Swim Club and SOFLO’s Jessica Rodriguez are the top two seeds in the 100-meter breaststroke.

SOFLO’s Marc Rojas, who competes for the Dominican Republic internationally, is seeded third behind Julio Horrego of Hialeah and Jackson Seith, 18, of Kentucky in the 100-meter breaststroke.

Ivey, SOFLO’s Kathleen Golding and Andrea Santander of Pine Crest Swimming are the top three seeds in the 400-meter individual medley. Ivey and Golding are one-two in the 200-meter individual medley.

Talia Bates, 16, of Gator Swim Club and Golding are one-two in the 50-meter freestyle.

Golding is third seed in the 100-meter freestyle behind Amelia Maughan, 20, and USC-bound Marta Ciesla, 18, of Pine Crest Swimming.

Jessica Rodriguez is seeded second in the 200-meter breaststroke behind Ivey.

SOFLO’s women’s 200-meter medley relay is seeded first in 1:54.38 ahead of St. Andrew’s Swimming (1:55.55) and Bolles (2:02.41). SOFLO is seeded first in the mixed 200-meter medley relay in 1:54.38 ahead of St. Andrew’s (1:55.55).

A field of 614 swimmers from 60 teams and 14 unattached teams will compete over four days in one of four designated USA Swimming zones. The others are Eastern, Central and Western Zone Sectionals.

The four meets attract some of the top swimming talent from across the United States and internationally.

Hawaii’s Kamehameha Swim Club, Race Aquatics Swimming of Kentucky and City of Lafayette (La.) will give Florida Gold Coast swimmers the chance to swim against out-of-state swim clubs. Bolles, Gator Swim Club, Loggerhead, Tampa, and Daytona Beach head north Florida Teams.

Among Florida Gold Coast teams entered are Azura, East Coast Aquatic Club, Hialeah, Boca Raton Swim Team, St. Andrew’s, Pine Crest Swimming, Metro Aquatics, North Palm Beach, Martin County, Hurricane Swimming, TS Aquatics, YMCA of South Florida and host Plantation Swim Team.


WHAT: USA Swimming Speedo Championship Series Southern Zone South Sectional Championship

WHEN: Thursday-Sunday

SCHEDULE: Thursday, finals 4:15 p.m.; Friday, prelims 9 a.m., finals 5 p.m.; Saturday, prelims 9 a.m., finals 5 p.m.; Sunday, prelims 9 a.m. 5 p.m. Warm-ups 7 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.

WHERE: Plantation Aquatic Complex, 9151 NW Second Street, Plantation.

OF NOTE: Admission $5 per session, heat sheets $3 per session. For information go to

Sharon Robb can be reached at