Alum Competes for Puerto Rico in Lacrosse World Championship
Check out the story of Saint Leo University alumnus Joseph Espinosa, a former Saint Leo lacrosse player who competed in the men's lacrosse world championship for Puerto Rico in 2018.
It's safe to say that Saint Leo University alumnus Joseph Espinosa has lacrosse in his blood. In fact, the 31-year-old recently competed in the world championship for lacrosse in Israel.
The Long Island, N.Y. native spent part of his childhood in Orlando. Growing up, he played baseball, basketball and soccer prior to getting into lacrosse when he was in middle school.
"My parents didn't want me to play football, but they were okay with me playing lacrosse," he recalls.
A graduate of Timber Creek High School in Orlando, Espinosa originally had plans to attend another university. It was his mentor who found out for him that Saint Leo's lacrosse program was moving up to the Division II level of the NCAA.
"I reached out to the school, and coach Brad Jorgensen wanted me to go there," he recalls.
After enrolling in 2005, he played on the men's lacrosse team for two years.
"Lacrosse was a lot of fun. I still keep up with some of my teammates from that time. We actually started our own team called the San An Stags and played in some local tournaments."
In the classroom, he majored in sport business with a minor in sales and marketing, ultimately earning a bachelor's in 2010.
"I have always enjoyed sports, and I figured this would be a degree program I would like and a degree I would actually use," he says. "A lot of what I do now is sales, so it really has helped me in my career."
Dr. Susan Foster had a significant impact on his academic career, he says. One of his most memorable classes was on sports ethics.
"In that class, we got to watch movies and had to write papers about the ethics in them. One of the movies was Million Dollar Baby."
He lived on campus for his first three years and says he made some good friends.
"The campus was like a fishbowl. Everyone knew everyone, and you really got to know people pretty well."
He was also a member of the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity and helped the university regain its charter for this group on campus. The core value of community rings true the most for him.
"I give private lacrosse lessons and will even be coaching a Fellowship of Christian Athletes team this fall," he says. "With lacrosse, I feel like you have to give back today because the sport is growing so much, and the demand for coaches is increasing a lot."
Throughout Espinosa's career, he has done sales and marketing for various organizations, including some sports teams, in addition to coaching lacrosse. He currently works as a logistics coordinator at Suntech TTS. His role involves managing freight accounts and getting drivers to transport freight.
"Once again, lacrosse helped me get this job since my boss plays in one of my men's leagues."
Now residing in Jacksonville Beach, Fla., he is a member of the Jacksonville Armadillos, a lacrosse club within the Florida Lacrosse League, which consists of a dozen teams around the Sunshine State.
"This league has a lot of former collegiate lacrosse players and some with professional experience," he says. "Our season runs through the fall and winter."
This past July, Espinosa had the opportunity to compete in the 2018 Federation of International Lacrosse men's lacrosse world championship in Israel. With a Puerto Rican heritage on his dad's side, he was recruited to play for Puerto Rico's national team in the prestigious tournament.
"A friend of mine tried out for the Puerto Rico team, and he then gave me the contact info to see if I could also get involved," he recalls.
When he landed his tryout with 80 other candidates, he was initially named an alternate for the team. But three months later, his phone rang with some incredible news on the other end.
"They told me I had made it onto the playing roster," he says. "It was huge. This was my childhood dream. I thought if Puerto Rico ever had a national team, it would be the coolest thing ever."
The club consisted of players ranging in age from 18 to 41. The team scored an eighth-place finish out of 46 teams, marking the first time a new national team had finished that high in the world championship. This performance was even more impressive because of several factors at play.
"We had only practiced three times before the event," he says. "Plus, we played with international rules, which means a more aggressive style of play and longer games being four 20-minute quarters. We also played some of the top teams like Germany, Japan, Wales and New Zealand. On top of that, we had to play five days in a row."
Despite the odds, the group took on some good chemistry in short order.
"We bonded really quickly. This was only the first or second time I've played on a team that instantly clicked. We put aside all of our egos and just worked hard together."
Espinosa's parents made the long trip to root him on, along with family members of his teammates.
"It was such a great experience. Our team stayed in a town called Netanya on the Mediterranean coast, which had a beautiful view. Every team also got to take a tour of Jerusalem."
The team's appearance in the international competition, which is only held every four years, received plenty of attention.
"Puerto Rico's governor was Tweeting about us on Twitter, and we also got to walk in the National Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York City," Espinosa recounts.
In his view, the people he has met through lacrosse are what represent his favorite part about being involved in the sport.
"I love the camaraderie of the sport," he says. "It really is such a small and tight-knit community of people."
Photo credit: The photographs included in this blog article were provided by Joseph Espinosa and are used with permission.