Premier Labor Day soccer showcase wows players at Lakewood Ranch

skennedy@bradenton.comSeptember 2, 2013 

LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Late summer brought the threat of rain Sunday to the second annual Labor Day Showcase at Premier Sports Campus at Lakewood Ranch, but it never materialized because heavy gray clouds drifted away harmlessly.

It was almost a perfect day, with the exception of stifling heat into the 90s. Players dripped with sweat and sipped icy concoctions, while spectators hid beneath tents and umbrellas to escape the blazing sun.

The heat, however, didn't seem to bother the 12-and-under girls team affiliated with the San Carlos Scorpion Soccer Club of Fort Myers.

Was running around in the heat fun or work? Mackenzie Gorski, 10, was asked.

She thought a moment before saying shyly: "Fun."

The student at Pinewoods Elementary in Estero was accompanied by her friend, Adriana Mateo, 11, who attends Oasis Middle School at Cape Coral.

Both have been playing for years, and hope to become professional soccer players, they said. Their team will play again Monday on the event's third and final day.

Elsewhere, nearly 300 teams with players ages 10 through 18 were enjoying the big-time atmosphere, too, competing on the facility's 22 playing fields spread across 140 acres at State Road 70 and Lorraine Road.

Juan Perez, 17, a senior at Barron Collier High School in Bonita, said his team faced some tough opponents, but got through it, and will play again today.

"The fields are really, really nice," he said as his Bonita Storm teammates lounged nearby. "It's one of the top

soccer fields I've ever been to."

Peter Gutsche, a coach for the FishHawk Ranch Chargers, based near Brandon, echoed the thought.

"I've coached in every facility in the state, and this is by far the best," said Gutsche while putting his energetic teenage players through drills.

"It's our team's second time in this tournament. Last year, it was here, too. We came back because it was such a good experience."

All sorts of vendors were out in force, selling T-shirts, hamburgers and hotdogs, chips, drinks and smoothies.

Among them was a family selling various types of hand-popped popcorn, kettle corn and other crunchy delights.

Manning the Hoppin'Poppin' Kettle Cornbooth: Mark Richardson, 57, Shirley Murray, 44,and her daughter, CatieWlodyga, 16, a junior atLakewood Ranch High School.

"Sales have been justso-so," said Murray, who works at Dunkin' Donutsas a regular job and sells concessions on the side.

Richardson laughed and said making and selling kettle corn is easier than his day job growing grass on a turf farm owned by Schroeder-Manatee Ranch.

The tourney concludes from 8 a.m. to about noon Monday.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031.

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