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Sami Tittanen goes D-I

January 16, 2015

By CHRIS PRIDE –

In one short season, Patrick Henry Community College (PHCC) men’s soccer player Sami Tittanen not only made a name for himself in the junior college ranks, but he also continued to push PHCC’s national recognition.

Tittanen hopes he can have that same kind of success in Texas.The Patriots’ midfielder recently accepted a scholarship offer to play this fall at the newly formed NCAA Division I University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV).The school is a consolidation of the UT-Pan American and UT-Brownsville campuses and will introduce a men’s soccer program under the direction of head coach Paul Leese. Coming from the junior college system, Patriots coach Enda Crehan believes this could be the start of a more common trend for his players.“We need to keep attracting new players and moving them on to bigger schools,” Crehan said. “Hopefully we can continue to make these players realize the importance of academics and putting soccer together. The motto is: ‘from here you can go anywhere.’”Tittanen was a key figure in the PHCC midfield this season, scoring 14 goals and adding 10 assists, for 38 points. He was a second-team All-Region X selection and also was chosen as a representative on the National Soccer Coaches Association of America All-South Region team.At UTRGV, Tittanen will be moved back to his familiar outside back position. He will join a friend of his at the college from Finland, who started classes this month. Crehan was introduced to the Texas branch school by the same mutual friend who helped bring Tittanen to Henry County.“I like playing defense, but I still like to attack a little bit. I like being a wing back that can push forward,” Tittanen said.The Rio Grande Valley campus will be slightly larger, with an enrollment of just over 20,000 — about seven times the size of PHCC. However, Tittanen and Crehan both agreed that the junior college move initially bettered the player’s chances of going Division I.PHCC offers good academics, a close-knit student body, good facilities and the necessary tools for advancement, Crehan said.The ability to progress and land a scholarship also helps Tittanen have a better chance of possibly turning professional, Crehan said. Crehan believes the UTRGV soccer program will take off quickly. It features a $5 million complex and a coach who had national success at NCAA Division II Coker College in Hartsville, S.C., over the previous five seasons.“That was the plan. I wanted to study and play soccer together and it was easier to do that (in the U.S.) than back home,” Tittanen said.The Finnish student looks to continue to improve his game and his fitness during the spring and summer leading into the August training camp. In only the third year of existence, Tittanen became the first Patriots soccer player to go Division I. PHCC has had 16 baseball players, three women’s basketball players and a softball player transfer to a Division I school since 2008. Former softball coach Amanda Warley was the last, going to Tennessee Tech in 2012.Crehan said he’s already gotten interest from other recruits from Finland because of Tittanen’s success in the States. He hopes he can continue to use the country as a recruiting base.Tittanen will study business and currently holds a 3.7 GPA at PHCC

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Filed under: Men's Soccer

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