They are known in the Big East as the Tyler Trio.
Three USF juniors from Texas’ Tyler Junior College (TJC) have been joined at the hip since they began playing together at the small school in 2009.
Entering USF this season, forward Dom Dwyer’s, midfielder Kyle Nicholls’ and defender Brenton Griffiths’ numbers were undeniably impressive, going 41-0-1 in two years at TJC, as well as winning two consecutive junior college national championships in 2010 and 2011. Dwyer had 37 goals in 21 games last season.
Yet, despite the team’s success, the trio was doubted, along with most junior college transfers moving to Division I. Coach George Kiefer told The Oracle before the season began, “There’s actually a lot of people asking questions about whether they can play at this level, so that’s good for them.”
Griffiths said the three maintained faith in their abilities.
“We had to stay focused on what we wanted,” he said. “That’s the type of negativity that’s going to get you down. We just stayed focused and knew when we got here, we’d have to prove ourse- lves.”
The doubters did nothing but endear the Tyler Trio to USF, they said. Their mission to prove their abilities runs parallel to that of the USF men’s soccer team.
“It doesn’t matter where we are ranked now,” Kiefer said. “The guys know that we weren’t ranked at the beginning of the season and weren’t given that respect.”
Though their fates have been aligned since their inaugural season together, each member of the trio is a different person and a different player. There’s Dwyer, the high-scoring offensive superstar. There’s Kyle Nicholls, the calm distributor. And then there’s Griffiths, the tough, gritty defender.
“I just want to be a good leader, just try to help anyone that’s struggling,” Griffiths said. “My favorite player is (Manchester United defender) Rio Ferdinand because he’s a self-made leader, which is something that I need to work on.”
Nicholls said his favorite player is Paul Scholes, also of Manchester United, because “he has great vision, he’s one of the hardest trainers, you never see him in trouble (and) he’s a true professional.”
“When we were brought in here, the first thing coach Kiefer said to me was that he needs someone to control the team, and obviously, me, Brenton and Dom are like the spine, right down the center of the pitch,” Nicholls said.
Despite success at TJC, the trio was nearly broken up.
“Kyle and I visited South Carolina together, and we loved it. We were both very close to committing there,” Dwyer said. “But then we visited USF and saw the new facilities and stadium, and saw that this place was ready to blow up and win big.”
Griffiths was also swayed by the growth of USF’s program.
“We met the coaching staff, and loved what coach Keifer had to say,” he said.
Though he leads the team in scoring, Dwyer said it’s not his favorite part of the game.
“I love scoring goals, obviously, but each game, I just want to win,” he said. “I like scoring goals, but actually, I enjoy assists more. I get more excited for those sometimes, and I don’t have one yet this year.”
Despite the criticism they have received, both the Tyler Trio, and the men’s soccer team as a whole has exceeded expectations. The Tyler Trio – led by 14 points from Dwyer – has accounted for 18 of the team’s 45 points this season.
As for the team itself, the Bulls are 5-2-1 with road victories over then-16th-ranked West Virginia, which ended its nation-leading, 13-game home winning streak, and then-10th-ranked Wake Forest. They also had a home victory over then-6th-ranked UC-Irvine, handing the Anteaters their first loss of the season.
The Bulls are now ranked No. 13 in the country heading into Saturday night’s home match at 7:30 against Providence which, despite being unranked, has earned a 6-2-0 record so far this season.
“We can’t be happy with where we are just yet,” Dwyer said. “We’ve beaten some good teams, but we’ve only played one Big East game. We’ve got to focus on our next nine Big East games, then try to win a Big East title, and then focus on the NCAA tournament.”