Joe Brown will never forget the first game his Pacific Falcons played at the inaugural Sand Storm Festival in 2008. The San Diego-based program’s middle school squad lost 18-4 to a more established club team. “It was our first club tournament and we weren’t prepared for the caliber of competition,” he said. Two years later, the Falcons made the finals of the La Quinta Division (Risers) at Sand Storm. This year, Brown is bringing three teams to the fourth annual Sand Storm Lacrosse Festival and has high expectations for the Falcons. “Our program has grown as Sand Storm has grown. We are now taking the field to win the tournament,” he said.
Sand Storm has helped raise the competitive level of numerous club teams from non-traditional areas west of the Mississippi. The two-day event, organized by Synapse Sports and held at the fabulous Empire Polo Club in Indio, Cal., has become the preeminent club tournament on the West Coast. “Sand Storm is the highlight of our winter program because Synapse always delivers on what they promise,” Brown said. “It’s a great venue, the games all run on time, the officials are consistent and the caliber of competition is tremendous.”
Sand Storm has grown in size every year and the 2011 tournament will feature a record 65 teams in three girls divisions (Middle School, JV and Varsity). Competition will be held Jan. 15-16 amidst a spectacular backdrop of palm trees and snow-capped mountains at Empire Polo Club, which features more than 20 impeccably maintained fields. “We are very excited to have Sand Storm coming back for a fourth straight year. It is a fantastic tournament and Synapse is a dream organization to work with,” said Summer Parkinson, event manager at the Empire Polo Club. “We host everything from art shows to concerts and this event is one of our favorites because of the energy the players bring to the fields and the festival atmosphere that exists.”
This year’s Sand Storm will break new ground as Synapse has partnered with Lax West Lacrosse to add a boys’ component to the tournament. Michael Watson, founder and director of Lax West, has been pleased with the response so far as there are teams registered for all four boys divisions (Youth/Under-13, Middle School/U15, High School/U17 and Elite/U19). “Synapse has an impeccable record for event management and we are thrilled to join forces with them to develop the boys’ side of Sand Storm,” Watson said. “Synapse has already created the infrastructure and developed a sterling reputation for Sand Storm so it really is a no-brainer to add boys. Our intention is to build this into the premier winter tournament for boys, just like it has become for girls.”
2011 teams hail from Arizona, California, Colorado, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, Oregon, Texas, Utah and Washington. In addition, many of the best athletes from their region will be competing on one of 6 teams representing XTEAM, a national lacrosse club that works to help girls from non-traditional areas actualize their dream of playing lacrosse in college. XTEAM girls come from over 20 different states and annually use Sand Storm as their key winter training, recruiting and year-end celebration weekend.
Sand Storm has been welcomed by college coaches in the West, who can scout a large amount of talent in one location without traveling far. A record number of coaches are expected this year, with the following women’s programs already confirmed to attend: Brown, Cal Berkeley, Carthage, Chapman, Claremont Mudd-Scripps, Cornell, Denver, Detroit Mercy, Loyola, Navy, Occidental, Oregon, Pacific, Pomona-Pitzer, Princeton, Redlands, Richmond, San Diego State, Santa Barbara, SBCC, St. Mary’s (CA), Stanford, UC-Davis, USC and Wellesley.
An array of additional offerings will lend to the festival atmosphere. Utah-based retailer Tribal West will have plenty of hot apparel, California Pro Sports will feature the latest and greatest STX equipment and Defender Mouthguards will be onsite with their mobile lab. Former Maryland All-American Dana Dobbie, the NCAA all-time leader in draw controls and an STX promo player, will be conducting individual skill clinics for participating athletes. STX will also provide prizes to divisional winners while Gatorade will hydrate the event.
There is still time to register for the Sand Storm Lacrosse Festival by visiting http://www.synapsesports.com
Synapse Sports is the premier provider of lacrosse playing opportunities and recruiting events in the U.S. Founder and CEO Cathy Samaras has been a trailblazer in the sport of lacrosse, working tirelessly for over 20 years to promote the growth and development of the game – from grassroots to global. To learn more about the exciting events organized by the company visit www.synapsesports.com or call 410-573-1414.
LAX WEST LACROSSE
Founded by former UVA 4-time All American Michael Watson, Lax West is committed to helping its participants reach their full potential as competitive lacrosse players and coaches through a variety of platforms including instructional and competitive camps, clinics and events, as well as coaching clinics and seminars, invitational exhibitions, games and tournaments. Visit www.laxwestlacrosse.com for more information.