Bulldogs slip past Northeast to stay unbeaten in XIV

By MIKE PHILLIPS / Corsicana Sun   — 

They’ll take it.

Why not, they earned it.

That’s one way to look at Navarro’s 2-1 win over Northeast Wednesday evening.

“A win is a win. I’ll take it,” said Navarro Coach Alicia Wilson, whose team managed to stay unbeaten in conference despite a rash of injuries.

Navarro isn’t hobbling, but the Dawgs aren’t exactly at full speed, either.

“We’ve got a player with a broken leg, two players with concussions and a player with a shoulder injury,” said Wilson, stating the facts .

She’s not complaining, just evaluating.

SOC NC-NE5It’s all about moving forward at Navarro, where Wilson’s team has soared into the national rankings and playing an aggressive, pressure-packed brand of soccer that’s not only entertaining but successful.

The Dawgs are 7-2 and ranked No. 13 in the National Soccer Coaches of America Division I poll, but what’s most important now is where they stand in the Region XIV race.

They’re 3-0 and at the top, tied for first place with Tyler, which is the No. 2 ranked team in the nation.

The first showdown with Tyler is Tuesday night in Tyler, where Navarro lost 4-0 last year. If you know the history of the two programs you know Navarro and Tyler have a reputation for having two of the top teams in the nation.

The past two seasons have produced some classic showdowns. Navarro emerged as the region champ in 2013 and 2014, beating Tyler in the title game each year and then taking the momentum of the region-title victory and advancing in the playoffs to the national tournament, where the Dawgs finished second in 2013 and finished third in 2014. Both losses were to Iowa Western, which beat Navarro 3-0 in the semifinals last year.

SOC NC-NE2The top four teams in the region will meet in the post-season, and Wilson feels Northeast will be one of them.

“They’re a playoff team,” she said after Wednesday’s win. “They’re a good team. I knew this team would be a tough win for us.”

Northeast is 2-2 in the region race, losing to Tyler 6-0 and Navarro 2-1, but the Dawgs had chances to add to that lead in the second half when they created a number of opportunities, including a couple by Brianna Roberts, who is from Corsicana. Roberts had a couple of runs in front of the net, and nailed a home run shot from about 30 yards out that just missed.

“Brianna has a powerful kick,” Wilson said. “We’re going to get her in more games.”

Victoria Swift, who has become an anchor on defense, got Navarro on the board at 28:48 in the first half when she ripped a free kick into the right corner of the net, and Shantell Thompson scored from about 15 yards out from the right side on a wicked kick that found the left corner of the net. Kianna Washington had the assist with 11:45 left in he half.

Katie Baugh made four saves and once again was solid in goal. Baugh has allowed just four goals in the past seven games, helping Navarro race to a 6-1 record over that stretch with the only loss coming last weekend in Iowa, where nationally-ranked Iowa Western defeated the Dawgs 2-1.

Navarro bounced back from that loss and ripped Illinois Central the next day in Iowa, winning 5-0, before returning to Texas.

The injuries are a concern, but only one player has been lost for the season, and Wilson hopes to be back at full strength for the stretch run.

For now, others have stepped up, including Yami Bravo, one of only four players who returned from last year’s team. Bravo had a tremendous game against Northeast.

“Yami had a great weekend in Iowa,” Wilson said. “And she had a great game today. She’s my utility player. She plays everywhere. She played left back, left middle, striker and right back. She played everywhere today.”

The win is significant because of the region race and the prospect of the postseason. The top four teams advance to the region tournament, and the top-seeded team will be the host of the title game.

“I’m appreciative of the win,” Wilson said. “It’s a conference win, a big win. Every conference win is a big win — it’s a humongous win.”

Photography by Keith Speer / Keith’s Sports Photos