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Eastern Florida Men's Soccer Team Earns Nationals Berth; Joins Women's Team as Participants
Nov. 9, 2013 - Eastern Florida State College's first-year men's soccer team, which four months ago existed only on paper, on Saturday showed it was real as it played itself into the NJCAA Division I Men's National Championship Tournament.
Freshman Justin Gavin's goal off a corner kick from classmate Keenan King 15 minutes into the second half powered the Titans past Louisburg (NC) College 1-0 and into the big dance.
Playing before a large, enthusiastic crowd on the Melbourne Campus, the men kept Louisburg at bay throughout a frantic second-half to move their record to 13-1-2 and their unbeaten streak to 14 games.
Louisburg finished 12-7-1 but six of the losses were early-season forfeits after the Hurricanes were found to have an ineligible player.
The men join the Eastern Florida women's soccer team as national tournament participants. The women blanked Jones County Junior College 2-0 on Friday in Ellisville, MS to earn their second consecutive nationals berth.
Eastern Florida hosts the women's tournament beginning a week from Monday on the Melbourne Campus while the Eastern Florida men will travel to Tyler, TX for the tournament hosted by Tyler Junior College, which also begins Nov. 18.
Louisburg, which led the nation in goals scored with 99, was content to pack in its defense back in the evenly played first half and really until Gavin's goal. The Hurricanes then became the aggressors forcing the action and spending the majority of the remaining time in the Titans end.
But the Titans defense and goalkeeper Jorge Madera stood strong.
"It feels like a dream," said a spent Eastern Florida assistant coach Josh Schirmer who was still dripping wet from his post-game water bucket shower.
"I had dreams about it, I thought we were going to win but for it to come true, it's still hard to realize what just happened. Another obstacle was thrown at us and we were able to get over it."
That's been the mode Eastern Florida has been in all season from thriving against a difficult schedule to traveling to Georgia and winning three district games to qualify for the chance to play Louisburg.
"The guys are just so close," Schirmer said. "I feel like we are a family. They are almost all freshmen and they came in together and bought into what we are trying to get them to do and now you see the results."
That closeness also struck a chord with the players.
"This Is a great team, a real special team like coach says," said Madera who finished the day with two saves but felt the Louisburg pressure as much as anyone. "We don't have that special player. Everybody is a special player. The work ethic is unbelievable. We go down and we're coming back up. We work, we're a working team."
And it was hard work and a dose of composure that allowed Gavin to navigate a scramble in front of the Louisburg net and send home the winner.
"The defenders cleared it but they didn't clear it out, I got it, beat the goalie, kept my composure and put it in the net," Gavin said.
"It's amazing. We've just got to keep it up and keep raising our level."
Eastern Florida will be one of 12 teams in the national tournament. Seeding and pairings have yet to be determined.
"This is really special, really special," said Eastern Florida Athletic Director and head women's soccer coach Jeff Carr.
"The excitement, the game today. You could just sense the excitement. The boys competed so hard today. They deserved to win that game. They've got a lot of heart. They play with passion."