They wrapped up the regular season in style Thursday afternoon with a pretty 8-0 win over Jacksonville, and now Alicia Wilsons’ Bulldogs head for the playoffs and hopefully a run at a national title.
That’s where Navarro’s women’s soccer program is today.
There were plenty back in August when Wilson looked up and down her roster searching for goals (not metaphorical goals, but real ones, the kind you need to score to win soccer games).
That’s why that crooked 8 looks so pretty today. It says— metaphorically — just how far this Bulldogs soccer team has come.
These Dawgs can score.
And the feeling is they will score enough in the postseason to get back to the NJCAA national tournament in Alabama.
That journey begins Friday at home at the Roark Montgomery Soccer Complex, where they knocked off No. 2 Tyler 2-1 on Tuesday afternoon in their biggest win of the season.
That victory gave Navarro a split with Tyler and a share of the Region XIV title.
Tyler beat the Dawgs 3-2 in Tyler on a free kick late in the game to stay undefeated, but Navarro beat Tyler and ended the season-long winning streak by stealing the ball with six minutes left Tuesday and then zipping around the goalkeeper and firing in a shot by Laura Jansa, who scored both goals in Navarro’s 2-1 victory.
That winning goal was unassisted (by officials or anyone else).
The Navarro-Tyler rivalry is as good as any, especially at Navarro because the Bulldogs have been on the sour end of too many losses that were questionable at best.
The two national powers are on a collision course again. Both will open the playoffs Friday, and probably win to advance to the Region final again (they meet every year for the right to advance to the nationals) in two weeks in Tyler.
Tyler will host because of the tiebreaker rule (goals differential in conference games). The winner heads for Alabama, but — thanks to a new rule last year in which at-large teams can also earn a berth — the loser still can get to the NJCAA Tournament and have a chance to win a national title.
Navarro hopes that impressive win over Tyler on Tuesday will move the Dawgs up in the NJCAA national poll, where they are now sitting at No. 8.
Here’s the resume.
After starting the season with 18 freshmen (yes, it’s unbelievable, but true) the Bulldogs started slowly losing a pair of 1-0 games, including the season opener to Division III national champ Richland in double-overtime. But since then Navarro has won 12 of 13 and slammed the door with 11 shutouts.
The Bulldogs have won seven in a row, including the win on Tuesday that snapped Tyler’s 14-game winning streak. The Dawgs have outscored opponents 33-1 in those seven games, allowing one goal against the No. 2 team in the nation on Tuesday.
Navarro goalkeeper Grace Staunton should not only be the Region XIV goalkeeper of the Year, but she has a pretty good argument to make the All-American team.
Navarro has produced a long list of All-Americans over recent years, and all of them have been prolific scorers.
But this year’s team doesn’t have that lightning-fast lethal scorer that has led Bulldog teams in the past.
“They have won because they are playing together,” Wilson said. “They feed off each other and the chemistry has improved all year. They’re unselfish and they play together, and that’s why we’re winning.”
The Dawgs also play great defense, and play a tougher band of soccer — more like Tyler, which has beaten up the Dawgs with rough play in the past, But on Tuesday Navarro went head to head and physically handled everything Tyler threw out there.
These Dawgs have simply adjusted and learned how to win. Jansa was recruited as a goalkeeper, and she’s terrific in goal. But Wilson needed scoring and moved Jansa out of the box and on to the field, where the former goalkeeper has become a dangerous scorer.
She scored twice on Thursday against Jacksonville, and with her four goals this week, Jansa now has eight for the season.
Navarro’s leading scorer this season is Nicole Olaya, who had her second hat trick of the year on Thursday against Jacksonville. She leads the team with 10 goals. Roneisha Frank, who scored against Jacksonville, has nine goals this season, followed by Jansa (8) and Samantha Moran (7).
Tateyana Pitter has been a force all year and leads the team with 10 assists to go along with four goals, and Nathalie Rojas, who had a big assists against Tyler, has eight assists this season. Manami Okadi has seven and Frank has six.
But Navarro has always had super scorers until this year’s all-for-one group, which has been led by midfielder Manyima Stevelmans, controls the middle of the field for the Dawgs. She scored her third goal of the season Thursday.
Consider this: Last year Valentina Carvajal scored 19 goals and had 16 assists and All-American Wasila Diwura scored 18 goals. Both would have scored in the mid 20’s but Navarro had so many one-sided games that Carvajal and Diwura sat out most of the second half in most of the games.
This is a different Navarro team — but a team that bonds and believes in each other, and a team that looks more than ready for the playoffs.
“It has been awesome to see them come together,” Wilson said. “We have to take the next step now.”