Navarro’s women’s soccer team saw its season end in the worst and most frustrating way imaginable — watching the curtain come down without the chance to put up a fight.
The Bulldogs were eliminated from the NJCAA National Women’s Soccer Tournament in Melbourne, Fla., when Hill defeated Lewis & Clark 4-3 in overtime on Wednesday, sending a row of dominoes falling just right to end Navarro’s season.
Hill’s victory forced a three-way tie with Navarro, L&C and Hill, which each finished pool play with 1-1 records.
But Lewis & Clark advanced to the semifinal round of the nationals from the three-team pool play format with a final tiebreaking edge over Navarro, because the Trailblazers had the head-to-head advantage with their 2-0 win over Navarro on Monday.
The Bulldogs knew after losing to Lewis & Clark that they had to not only beat Hill on Tuesday but win by enough goals to erase the two-goal deficit.
That’s exactly what they did on Tuesday as Roneisha Frank, who did not play against L&C because she was coming back from a concussion, drilled in a hat trick, scoring three goals, and Laura Jansa added a late goal to give Navarro a 4-1 victory and the edge in scoring that could send the Bulldogs to the semifinals.
The Bulldogs needed Hill to win by two goals over Lewis & Clark, and coach Alicia Wilson and her team were the stands watching the game and elated when Hill took a 2-0 lead into halftime.
All Hill had to do was hang on to that lead and Navarro would advance.
But Lewis & Clark came back, and with the help of an own goal, the Trailblazers scored just enough to send the game into overtime at 3-3.
Once the game reached OT Navarro was eliminated because even when Hill scored the winning goal to defeat L&C 4-3 it wasn’t enough.
Navarro and Lewis & Clark finished with the same record (1-1) and with the same one goal differential, but Navarro lost the final head-to-head tiebreaker.
Wilson met with her players afterward. It was a somber meeting.
“Our players were quite sad,” Wilson said. “It was in our control to take charge and we didn’t take advantage of the opportunity.
“We’ve come a long way this year with a young team and all the injuries we had to overcome. I told them with all the stuff we had to get through that they need to be proud.
“At the end of the day we needed to win two games in pool play and we didn’t. Hopefully, they will take this experience and come back next year. They should come back with a real hunger.”
This was Wilson’s second trip in a row to the NJCAA nationals, and this year’s loss was as bitter as they come.
What made the elimination even more frustrating is that Navarro outplayed Lewis & Clark, dominating that game and playing almost the entire game on one half of the field.
But the Bulldogs’ shots hit the post and sailed wide. At one point Navarro took five shots in a row but couldn’t find the back of the net. Two set pieces — a header off of a corner kick and a free kick — were enough to give Lewis & Clark the win.
Frank couldn’t play in Monday’s game against Lewis & Clark because she had suffered a concussion earlier and was not cleared. She was cleared the next day and obviously made a difference in the Hill game.
“All the coaches were asking me why she didn’t play Monday,” Wilson said. “She would have been a difference maker if she had played against Lewis & Clark.”
Navarro finishes a remarkable season in which 18 freshmen played. The Bulldogs (15-5) were ranked in the Top 10 almost the entire season and are the only team to defeat No. 3 Tyler as the two rivals split home-and-home games in the regular season.
For the first time in her four years at Navarro Wilson did not have a prolific scorer to lead the team, and led the Dawgs to the nationals with a team that played great defense (12 shutouts) and found goals here and there from several players.
It made for a rewarding season and sensational ride to the nationals — a ride that ended in frustration.