Courtesy Mark DeCotis / Eastern Florida State College
BREVARD COUNTY, FL – Iowa Western Community College is back on familiar ground.
The defending national champion Reivers defeated Navarro College 3-0 in Friday’s first semifinal to advance to Saturday’s 7 p.m. NJCAA Women’s Division I National Soccer Championship against No. 2 seeded Monroe College on Eastern Florida’s Melbourne Campus.
The top-seeded Reivers improved to 21-0-1 overall while fifth-seeded Navarro finished its season at 16-5-1. Iowa Western defeated Navarro in the 2013 final at EFSC.
Monroe advanced to the championshipby beating host EFSC on its Titan Stadium turf, thanks to a 4-2 edge in penalty kicks following a scoreless tie.
“This group has something within them, I don’t know what it is, it’s some sort of tangible energy that they possess,” said Iowa Western head coach Brad Silvey. “It’s something I can’t coach. “It’s just something that when a special group of girls get together and they have a special bond they can do special things.”
A special effort was turned in by sophomore Celia Jimenez last year’s most valuable forward in the tournament. She played most of Friday on the back line but also scored the first goal.
“She’s a tremendously special player,” Silvey said. “We talked at halftime and said ‘it’s two good teams going nose to nose what’s going to break the deadlock is either going to be us having a little bit more of a will to win or a special player stepping up and making something happen,” Silvey said. “We had some special players step up.”
After a first half of each team playing a more conservative, feeling-out type of offensive game the second half began with more of an aggressive nature.
Navarro sophomore Trudi Carter had the best first chance in the 51st minute but was high on a breakaway. Three minutes later Navarro sophomore Shelby Evans hit the post as the Bulldogs began to get in behind the Iowa Western defense.
But then Iowa Western struck as Jimenez chipped in a shot past Navarro keeper Kenia Medina off a free kick from sophomore Nicole Gowans in the 52nd minute.
The goal ignited Iowa Western’s offense and six minutes later the Reivers went up 2-0 as sophomore Brianne Richards found the back of the net on an assist from classmate Kristine Reynolds.
Iowa Western keeper freshman Haley Johnson was forced into a diving save on a rocket of a Navarro shot in the 68th minute.
With 10 seconds to play Gowans tied the knot with the final goal for the 3-0 margin.
The loss broke a 10-game winning streak for Navarro, whose predominantly sophomore lineup compiled a two-year record of 35-9-2 in 46 games, won two Region XIV and two District I championships and played in two NJCAA Final Fours.