MELBOURNE, Fla. — The disappointment was both understandable, and palpable.
However, in the aftermath of Navarro College’s 3-1 loss to top-seeded Iowa Western in the NJCAA national championship women’s soccer game Saturday, there was also another feeling:
“I’m proud of every single one of those girls over there, and my coaches” co-captain Lexi Riggs said.
All season long, the Bulldogs (19-4-1) seemed to rely on two things – a suffocating defense, and coming up with the big plays when they needed them.
Unfortunately, on the biggest stage of the season Saturday night, the defense made two mistakes that led to Iowa Western goals and while the Bulldogs were able to cut the lead in half on a goal by Trudi Carter, the game-tying goal wasn’t to be had despite several strong attempts.
Iowa Western would score again, on a shot that hit off the crossbar, and the Bulldogs were out of magical finishes.
“We were scared,” Navarro sophomore defender and co-captain Judith Bast said. “I don’t know why we were scared. We saw in the second half when we pressured them, they were nervous; kicking the ball, missing the ball.
“But at the beginning of the game we were not playing our game. We played with fear. I don’t know why. That’s why they scored two goals in the first half.”
Riggs attributed both of those goals to a momentary lack of focus on the part of the Bulldogs’ defense. Both times, Navarro College was trying to clear the ball out of the goal area, but lost possession.
The first goal came with just over eight minutes gone in the game. The second, which was a real dagger, came with 21:34 to play in the half as a Navarro defender’s attempt to kick the ball out, instead spun back toward the Bulldogs’ goal. A shot hit off the left post, and in the scramble after the ball, Iowa Western’s Brianne Richard beat three Navarro defenders to it and poked it in for a 2-0 lead.