MELBOURNE, Fla. —
She has proved it twice already in the NJCAA women’s soccer tournament. Heck, she has proved it all season.
When the Navarro College Bulldogs need a goal, freshman forward Trudi Carter knows how to deliver.
“She comes in and finishes the game for us,” Navarro teammate Morgan Nutley said. “I trust her to always come through for us.”
Carter has scored the game-winning goal in each of Navarro’s two wins at this year’s NJCAA tournament; helping the third-seeded Bulldogs (18-3-1) reach the national semifinals for the first time in program history.
Navarro will faced No. 5 seed Butler Community College (21-2-2) Friday for a chance to play in Saturday’s national title game against the winner of the other semifinal between No. 1 Iowa Western and No. 7 Laramie County.
If either the semifinal or final is decided by one goal, you have to like Navarro’s chances, and the fact that Carter will be involved.
The Bulldogs are 9-2 this season in games decided by one goal. Carter has scored the game-winner in six of those victories.
“We have had some Nirvana moments when she does stuff, but she’s done this all year,” Navarro assistant coach Aric Bonner said. “If we get to a point where we’re tied, or we’re down and we need a big moment, and she just does it. Even with triple teams, she does it. She’s definitely a difference maker without a shadow of a doubt. Phenomenal player.”
The 5-foot-4 forward, who turns 19 on Monday, grew up in Kingston, Jamaica. Introduced to the game by her soccer-loving family, she found herself playing on a team with boys when she was just 9-years old.
“It was really hard because I was the only girl on the team and I was so young and so small,” Carter said. “But I didn’t let it scare me, because I love the game. I decided to go for it.”
It wasn’t long until coaches were asking her to come to their high school when she was old enough, the first sign that she was not just your average player. At 13, she made the Jamaican National Under-15 team and eventually advanced to the Under-20 squad.
As big a stage as the NJCAA is for the Bulldogs, Carter has been on an even bigger one, having played in World Cup qualifying matches.
When Aric Bonner and his wife, head Coach Debbie Bonner, heard about Carter, they went to Jamaica to watch her play. They decided they wanted to sign both Carter and her club team and national team teammate Shanise Foster.
Carter had drawn interest from two other schools in Florida, but the Bulldogs had a big advantage in that Nugene Nugent – who played on the national team with Carter – spoke highly of the Navarro program and coaching staff.
“She told me, ‘They’re good people. They’ll take care of you,’” Carter said.
Determined to further her education, and perhaps land a contract with a professional team one day while also helping out her family in Jamaica, Carter came to the United States determined to be a success.
She quickly showed the Bonners that she was much more than the player they had watched in Jamaica.
“The first practice we were like, ‘Oh, wow. Yeah, this kid’s special,’” Aric Bonner said.
In Carter, the Bulldogs have a player who understands the game at some of its highest levels. When she is double, triple or even quadruple teamed, she doesn’t try to take on all the defenders at once. She simply passes the ball and then tries to reposition herself to have a better scoring chance if she gets the ball back.
Of her 23 goals this season, 12 have put her team ahead and two have tied the score.
Though she sees herself as more of a regular player than a star, Carter clearly thrives in pressure situations.
“The pressure is always on me, but it doesn’t matter because I’m doing all of this for myself, my coach, my team and also my family in Jamaica,” she said. “There’s always a lot of pressure, but I’m used to it. Even in high school, there was always a lot of pressure.”
It’s easy to see why Carter draws a lot of attention from opposing defenses. Not only does she have tremendous speed, but she is also quite adept at creating enough space to get a shot off.
“She’s very crafty with the ball at her feet,” Aric Bonner said. “She does some nice change of pace moves and then she can strike a ball like nobody. I mean, she pounds the ball.”
Believe it or not, Carter, who plays midfield for the Jamaican national team, considers herself more of a passer than a goal scorer.
She has fit in with the Bulldogs quite nicely, and has even been known to stay after practice to work on the game with some of the other players. It’s the closeness of this team, along with its talent, that is often given as the reason why Navarro is having such a remarkable season.
“What makes this team go is the girls fight for each other,” Carter said. “That’s what the coach tell us, ‘Fight for your sister, and fight for yourself. It’s not about you, it’s about all of us.’ That’s why this team is better.”
The Bulldogs are certainly on a roll, having won six in a row and going 16-1-1 over their past 18 games. With two more wins, they would be national champions.
Now that’s a stage Carter would like to be on. And if the Bulldogs need a big goal in the next two days, you don’t have to wonder who they’ll be looking for to deliver it.
“I love to play with these girls,” Carter said. “They make me happy.”