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SOCCER: Bemidji State, CSU Pueblo successes intertwined through intricate connections

Teams of destiny are the stuff of legends. But the Colorado State Pueblo men’s soccer team is intertwined with the Bemidji State women’s soccer and football programs for far more than just that.

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CSU Pueblo men's soccer head coach Oliver Twelvetrees, center, huddles with the ThunderWolves during a game against Lubbock Christian on Friday, Sept. 9, 2022, in Pueblo, Colo.
Courtesy / CSU Pueblo Athletics
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BEMIDJI — Teams of destiny are the stuff of legends. But the Colorado State Pueblo men’s soccer team is intertwined with the Bemidji State women’s soccer and football programs for far more than just that.

“There’s a lot of parallel things going on there,” ThunderWolves head coach Oliver Twelvetrees said.

In men’s soccer, Twelvetrees and CSU Pueblo made a run all the way to the Division II national championship game. All the while, BSU soccer and football were building playoff runs of their own. It’s easy to see the symmetry between teams from the same university, but Twelvetrees has his own Bemidji State roots that fueled his program’s run more than 1,000 miles away.

Twelvetrees spent two seasons as a graduate assistant with the BSU women’s soccer team in 2002-03, which were also the first two years in charge for now-longtime head coach Jim Stone. And in June 2003, Twelvetrees and fellow Bemidji State grad student Brent Bolte -- now the head coach of Beaver football -- had sons born in the same hospital on the same day.

The boys, Jack Twelvetrees and Caden Bolte, share more than just a birthday. They were teammates at Bemidji High School and both now play together for the BSU football team.

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Bemidji State head coach Brent Bolte encourages the Beavers during the second quarter against Minnesota Duluth on Saturday, Oct. 22, 2022, at Chet Anderson Stadium.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

“It’s amazing what (Stone) has done. Certainly, he laid a foundation for me as a college coach, no doubt about it,” Oliver Twelvetrees said. “I know Bolte is an amazing coach as well, and he’s done a great job. And obviously they had an amazing run (to the Sweet 16).”

Stone reached the Elite Eight with the Beavers this fall, and they fell one win short of reaching the Division II Championships Festival in Seattle -- an Olympic-style gala of national championships all held at a single site over several days. Had their quarterfinal result been different, Stone could have clinched a reunion with Twelvetrees and cheered him on as the ThunderWolves reached the title game behind Gabriel Campora’s game-winning goal in the 90th minute of the national semifinals.

“I was just gutted that I wouldn’t get to see him in Seattle because it was just one game short,” Twelvetrees said. “That would have been really amazing, but I guess it wasn’t meant to be.”

Stone, however, still relished in the success that his former assistant created during the NCAA Tournament.

“Everything he touches seems to turn to gold,” Stone said. “It’s really fun to see, and I’m happy for him, his family and his program.”

‘There from day one with Jim’

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Oliver Twelvetrees, left, and Jim Stone coached women's soccer together at Bemidji State in 2002 and 2003.
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Twelvetrees, who’s originally from Swansea, Wales, in the United Kingdom, first got connected with Stone through a mutual friend while Twelvetrees was working for a club in St. Louis, Mo. Stone hired him as his assistant, and the two began investing in a program that had never earned a winning season.

“The program wasn’t in a very good place when me and Jim got there,” Twelvetrees said. “I was there from day one with Jim when we were trying to recruit on campus and we didn’t have any players. To where it is now, it’s just unbelievable.

“We’ve been pretty close ever since. He was my boss, but because we came in together at a pretty similar age, it was kind of a double act those first couple years to get the program up from where it was.”

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The Beavers went just 9-25-1 in those two seasons. Twelvetrees then moved on as the women’s soccer head coach at Wayne State, then later to coach the NJCAA men’s programs at Barton Community College and Eastern Florida State College before becoming CSU Pueblo’s head coach in 2020.

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Bemidji State head coach Jim Stone watches from the sidelines during the first half against Minnesota State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday, Nov. 13, 2022, at Chet Anderson Stadium.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

But Stone said even this year’s run for Bemidji State -- two decades later -- has Twelvetrees’ fingerprints on it.

“I’ve learned as much from my assistants as they’ve learned from me, for sure,” Stone said. “Nothing great is ever accomplished alone. Even us being in the Elite Eight this year, he has a piece of that. He had a part in it. I’m happy for him and feel blessed that I’ve been around coaches who have some great minds.”

And that reverence is mutual.

“Jim is a truly amazing man. Not just a great coach, he’s a truly amazing man,” Twelvetrees said. “I would like to think I was able to be a good assistant on the soccer side, but he taught me so much on the leadership and the human side of what it takes to be a college coach.”

Micah Friez is the former sports editor at the Bemidji Pioneer. A native of East Grand Forks, Minn., he worked at the Pioneer from 2015-23 and is a 2018 graduate of Bemidji State University with a degree in Creative and Professional Writing.
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