When recruiting potential soccer players for Tyler Junior College, women’s coach Corey Rose describes a beautiful campus among a vibrant community, but stresses two other factors more than any other.
“You come to TJC for two reasons: One is to get an education and two, to compete for a national championship,” he said.
Since joining TJC as head coach in 2008, the women’s team has competed in the championship game three consecutive years and twice — including last season — brought home the national title.
This season the Lady Apaches are ranked No. 1 in the NJCAA pre-season poll and Rose says he plans on taking another trip to Florida to defend the title.
“My expectations are to compete for a national championship again,” he said.
He supports that statement despite pre-season injuries and a team consisting of only eight returning players and 18 freshmen — a new mix of players he insists should not be compared with the team’s predecessor.
“We play a dynamic style of play. We like to possess the ball . . . like to move quickly . . . like to score goals,” Rose said. “I think it’s going to be fun to watch.”
A new NJCAA rule implemented this season limits the number of international players to only four. In the 2011 season the Lady Apache roster included nine international players — four of whom were eligible to return.
Rose said he had to make some difficult decisions in filling those spots on the roster. Two returnees — Stacie Murray and Alice Coyne, both from England — won positions and will join two freshman international players.
“It’s got to come down to the level of play,” Rose said. “We’ve only got those four spots so you’ve got to make sure you get the best players you can.”
Among the other returnees is national all-tournament team and second team All-American player Jahmela Williams, a forward from Las Vegas, who tallied 21 goals and three assists last year.
The financial demise of Lon Morris College in Jacksonville also played a factor in this year’s recruiting efforts.
John Tyler High School players Eymi Cornelio and Andrea Araiza initially signed with Lon Morris, but moved to TJC. Cornelio was named first team in District 31-4A last year and Araiza was named to the second team.
Other incoming freshmen players include Mary Sue Rosales, a John Tyler graduate named Co-Defensive Player of the Year in District 31-4A and Nikeyia Shackelford of Kilgore, first team All- District 32-4A.
“It’s going to take a couple of weeks . . . a couple of games to get the freshmen up to speed with what the sophomores are able to do,” Rose said.
The coach said he is working with the team to improve overall fitness and working to make a stronger defense.
“We brought in bigger, taller goal keepers that are going to push the two returning goal keepers for playing time, which I always think is good,” Rose said. “Competition for starting positions makes your team fight harder.”
As for injuries, Rose said two freshmen will be off the field after each tore an ACL during the summer and returnee Tori Rodriquez may be out six to eight weeks nursing a hip injury.
The coach said one goalkeeper “has an Achilles” issue” and another player has a shoulder injury.
“When you think you’re going to have 26 or 27 players, now you are down to 22 or 23,” he said. “but we’re going to get some of those players back.”
The Apache Ladies open their season Friday in Perkinston, Miss. against Darton College, a team TJC defeated last year for the national title.
TJC also plays at Pearl River (Miss.) Community College on Saturday.
Wednesday’s game against Mountain View College in Dallas was cancelled because that team is without a coach.
The Apache Ladies’ first home game is Sept. 12 against Northeast Texas Community College.