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 firstname.lastname@example.org