By MIKE PHILLIPS / Corsicana Daily Sun
They say it’s lonely at the top.
Maybe, just don’t tell the women who play soccer at Navarro College.
If it feels like rush hour in Dallas, it’s because Navarro is loaded with players this season — well, overloaded.
“We’ve never had this many players,’’ said assistant coach Aric Bonner, whose wife Debbie is the head coach of the team. “We usually have about 21 players, and this year we’ve got 27. It’s different.’’
Bonner feels good about the depth of talent, but admits it’s going to take a while to sort it all out.
The Bulldogs open their season at 4 p.m. Saturday in Tyler against Barton. They play Laramie in Tyler at 3 p.m. on Sunday and lay their home opener at 6 p.m. Tuesday.
This weekend will be a serious test for the new Bulldogs. Both Barton and Laramie are national powers. Navarro opens the season ranked No. 13 in the nation in the NJCAA poll, but that ranking is based as much on what the Bulldogs have done in the past as what they might do in the future.
After all, Navarro returns only four players from last year’s team that lost in the district final. Two of those players — Judith Bast, a midfielder, and Lexie Riggs, a defender — were all-conference players, and they will need to be leaders on and off the field for a team with 23 freshmen.
“We’ve got a ton of kids,’’ Bonner said.
The loss of Nugene Nugent, who was a talented scorer and is now at the University of Memphis and helped Navarro win 17 games last year, would be tough enough, but the Bulldogs have to replace starters all over the field.
Not only is Navarro young, but Bonner knows it will take time to find the right mix, the perfect chemistry that is as important — or more important — in soccer as in any sport.
“It’s going to be one of those deals where we have to figure out they fit together,’’ Bonner said. “Freshmen are freshmen. One day they look really good and the next day they look like they’ve never seen the field before.’’
The wealth of players is a by-product of Navarro’s success and could prove to be the blueprint for a big year.
“It’s kind of a different year for us,’’ Bonner said. “We’ve got more bodies. It speaks to the fact we’re getting known and being perceived as a place to come and have a positive experience. In the past 10-12 years we’ve finished in the top 15.’’
It may take a little patience. Bonner said none of the freshmen have jumped out.
“They have all continued to make positive strides,’’ he said/ “I can’t say there’s one who is heads and shoulders above the rest.
“The lineup will change from game to game. This time of year it’s really hard to tell. By early September it will start to separate.’’
Still, having a logjam of players is an enviable position .
“It’s not a bad problem to have,’’ Bonner said. “It would be bad if we didn’t have enough. We’ve got plenty of bodies. Now we just have to figure out how they fit into the puzzle.’’