Game Day, tonight we host No. 7 Eastern Florida in tournament game

October 30, 2014

By CHRIS PRIDE – Bulletin Sports Writer

With a 15-4 record and a No. 17 ranking by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America, Patrick Henry Community College (PHCC) will find out tonight if it is worthy of the hype.

PHCC opens the playoffs at 6:30 p.m. tonight at the Smith River Sports Complex (SRSC), and its reward for earning the program’s first national ranking is to face No. 7 Eastern Florida State College (Melbourne, Fla.) out of Region 8. Eastern Florida won the season series against Broward College to earn the region’s postseason bid into the Region X tournament. Today’s winner will advance to the regional semifinals Saturday at Louisburg College in North Carolina.The Titans finished 11-2-1 to earn their second straight postseason berth.Patriots freshman midfielder Sami Tittanen said he isn’t intimidated by tonight’s opponent. Tittanen is one of four internationals brought in by first-year head coach Enda Crehan.“I don’t care who we play. It’s good when we get to face good teams and every game now is a new game,” said Tittanen, who hails from Finland.Crehan recruited several new faces to join the few returning sophomores he inherited from last season’s team. Between the European and Latin influences on his team, Crehan said the way he built his squad during the spring has translated nicely on the pitch this fall.Crehan assembled a team that was able to work possession, attack, stay structured defensively and play with lots of speed. The recent notoriety in the national rankings, Crehan said, was a tribute to how the team has gelled together over the last few months.“This is what they’ve come for. They’re here to play games, get better and help put the school more on the map,” he said. “We’re a nationally ranked program now, and that’s a credit to (the players). I can set the parameters but ultimately it’s them that have to play the games.”EFSC head coach Oliver Twelvetrees said he’s excited to face the elite teams from Region X. Crehan respects the Titans’ head coach and expects his team to be fully prepared when the teams square off under the lights at the SRSC.“We are excited to continue our season into the playoffs and compete against the top teams in Region 10,” he said. “Our goal is to win every game we play, and we will be approaching the Patrick Henry game with a positive mindset by attacking their defense and shutting down their high-powered offense.”PHCC has scored 79 goals this season — second most goals in the nation — led by Bassett High School graduate and Patriots sophomore Daniel Maldonado’s 19. Tittanen also has double-digit goals with 13 while Connor O’Dwyer and James Lee are tied for third with eight goals apiece. EFSC has scored 66 goals as a team while conceding just 15 over its 14 games.The Patriots will have to keep a keen eye on the Titans’ Cleef Desir, who leads Eastern Florida with 12 goals. Farias Juarez and Jordan Muir have found the net nine times each. PHCC may find it hard to beat Titans keeper Jorge Madera, who has allowed nine goals in 590 minutes of action.Crehan said in order for his side to be successful and pull off the upset tonight, it must stay true to its strengths. Crehan said he will depend on the leadership and big-game experience from O’Dwyer and Tittanen.“The way they play the game is simple,” he said. “They’re also a little older, and the traveling they’ve done all comes into play. I think it definitely shows during games as does their leadership off the field.”Being able to host tonight’s Region X play-in match is another bonus, O’Dwyer said.“It’s an advantage to play on your own pitch. This is why we came here; to play in the big games,” he said. “I think in some of the other big games this season against Louisburg and Spartanburg Methodist, as a team we haven’t taken a lot of responsibility ourselves. I’m hoping we can learn from that and deploy that in our next game.”Crehan said the challenge this season was getting all the different international styles of soccer to come together as a unit. The Hispanic players such as Maldonado, Francisco Garcia, Mauricio Moreno all have good ball skill and speed. It is linking that with the vision of midfielders like O’Dwyer, Tittanen and Lee that makes PHCC so dangerous on the attack, he said. The head coach feels he has found the right blend of personalities on the pitch this season and tonight’s match is a perfect time to see if he’s gotten it right.“If you look at international soccer or any club competitions — the FA Cup is a great example — this is where you can see giant killing. Nights like (tonight) remind you a little bit about some of those games,” Crehan said.

Filed under: Men's Soccer