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Eastern Florida Poised for Men's National Soccer Tournament
Nov. 14, 2013 - As a coach Oliver Twelvetrees is no stranger to the NJCAA Division I Men's National Championship Soccer Tournament having taken Barton Community College to the big dance twice.
Next week Twelvetrees will make his third appearance but this time at the helm of the first-year Eastern Florida State College team.
So while the surroundings and the national championship environment at Tyler Junior College in Tyler, TX are familiar to him they will be new to his players. That's where he can offer wisdom based on experience.
"I think the ability to play without fear and play relaxed and not be over-awed," Twelvetrees said about what separates teams at the tournament. "There are 11 other teams, there are a lot of college coaches scouting and there are even some professional scouts there.
"You've got to be not over-awed by the situation. You've got to come in and be focused. We've got a good travel schedule. I think we've got good preparation. With my experiences and I think just the attitude of these guys, their ability to relax and have fun is important. I think you've got to enjoy it and not over think it.
"At the end of the day the sun is going to set and the next day the sun's going to come up and win, lose or draw life's going to go on. I think if you can approach with a positive attitude but not get too over excited I think we are going to have success."
The criteria Twelvetrees expressed have been a hallmark of Eastern Florida throughout its remarkable debut season. The Titans are 13-1-2 and have won NJCAA Region 8, Region 17 and Southeast District titles. They also are in the midst of a 14-game unbeaten streak.
"It's been a big mountain to climb to get to this point and it's just an amazing feeling to take this team onto a national stage and try and prove ourselves to be the best team in the country," Twelvetrees said.
"They've (players) have been fired up, they're excited, they're really, really excited. I think I am going to have to bring them down to earth a little bit and make them realize they still have got a lot of work to do. We are taking on the best teams in the country."
That hasn't been an issue for the Titans so far. With the exception of losing to nationally ranked San Jacinto College in their second game ever, the Titans have held their own. They upset then No. 2 nationally-ranked Darton College in Georgia, tied Darton in double overtime in Melbourne and then blanked the Cavaliers in the Region 17 semifinals.
The Titans won Region 17 by defeating Georgia Perimeter for the second time this season, this time on penalty kicks after a double-overtime draw.
The Titans have been a combination of heart, hustle, speed and skill and a flat-out refusal to back down against long odds.
That can be traced back to Twelvetrees' approach to the season as a whole.
"I certainly hold them to high standards." Twelvetrees said.
The backbone of the team begins with standout freshman goalkeeper Jorge Madera and extends to the back line of freshmen Ivan Magalhaes, Khori Foster, Keenan King and Arturo Roosen who also has shown scoring flair with five goals.
"They've been fantastic," Twelvetrees said of his back line. "They've just played out of their skins."
Forward freshman Jordan Muir leads the Titans in scoring with 10 goals while sophomore forward Johnathan Quintero has eight. Freshman Farias Juarez has six and classmate Justin Gavin has five. Gavin leads in assists with 13 while King has 12.
As a team the Titans rank sixth nationally in shots per game, averaging 19.3 and are eighth in assists with 71. They rank 30th in goals with 56.
Twelvetrees also has had an able deputy in assistant coach Josh Schirmer who has played a key role in the Titans success.
"He moved his family from Pensacola for a very part-time job because he wanted to start in the coaching game," Twelvetrees said. "His attitude and experiences have been a great help."
Overall, it's been a team effort from the first practices in August through the grind of the regular season and the exhausting yet exhilarating postseason.
"If you have a good group of players that really goes a long way to your success," Twelvetrees said. "The character and personality of these players has definitely been a big joy."
Eastern Florida is the national tournament's fifth seed. It plays its pool games on Tuesday and Wednesday, meeting Burlington County at 4 p.m. Eastern on Tuesday and Yavapai at 4 p.m. Eastern time on Wednesday.
The semifinals are at 6 and 8 p.m. Eastern time on Friday and the championship final at 7 p.m. Eastern on Saturday.
All games will be streamed live on the web at www.njcaatv.com/soccerchamp/
The tournament seeding is: Iowa Western Community College (22-0); Tyler Junior College (16-2); San Jacinto-South (TX) (18-1); Yavapai College (AZ) (18-2-4); Eastern Florida State (13-1-2); Cincinnati State (OH) (17-1-2); ASA (NY) (11-1-2); Lewis & Clark (OR) (14-5-3); Burlington County (NJ) (14-3-2); Cloud County Community College (KS) (11-10); Community College of Baltimore County/Essex (MD) (10-4-4); Ranger College (TX) (8-9-1).