By DAVID BARKHOLZ / For Florida Today
It sure seemed like the hometown fans were about to witness the beginning of something great.
But Eastern Florida State College’s women’s soccer team couldn’t quite pull off the upset on its home field Monday night, falling to Navarro College in the opening round of the NJCAA Division I national finals, 2-1.
“You’ve got to commend Navarro, they played a lot harder than us,” Eastern Florida State coach Jeff Carr said. “It was a great battle. Unfortunately, we finished with the loss.”
The Bulldogs, who entered the postseason tournament as the No. 3team in the nation, jumped on the board first when freshman midfielder Shelby Evans knocked in a low, bouncing shot past several Titan defenders in the 15th minute.
“The first goal we definitely kind of went to sleep,” Carr said. “We didn’t defend very well on that goal to be honest.”
The Titans quickly responded by leading several long attacks downfield, waking up the big hometown crowd in the process.
The team’s resiliency finally paid off in the 27th minute, when sophomore midfielder Sue Kumaning sent a floating pass into the box to teammate Amanda Lodge, who was shouldered by a Bulldogs defender, drawing a penalty kick.
Kumaning drove her penalty kick into the lower left corner of the net for a goal that would send the two teams into the half tied.
Coming out of halftime, neither team gave the other a chance to get anything going as possessions continuously switched feet around midfield.
That all changed in a flash when Bulldog midfielder Erica Pena sent a quick pass to freshman Trudi Carter, who sent a shot screaming past the Titan keeper to break the second-half stalemate and secure the game for Navarro in the 79th minute.
“We bounced back and started pressing at the end, but it was just a little too late,” Carr said. “We tried to play their game. They played long ball and we are a possession-type team.”
Eastern Florida State will return to the pitch tonight to face South Maryland in the second round of the national championship tournament.
In order to have a chance at advancing to the semifinals, the Titans need to first beat the Hawks and then hope that same team can get the win against Navarro on Wednesday.
“We’ve got to play back-to-back,” Carr said, “so we’ve really got to hydrate it and get some good rest tonight to even compete against Southern Maryland (tonight)”