By MIKE MONTFORT —
Bulldog soccer, in its second season under head coach Alicia Wilson, returns eight sophomores from a team that reached the District I finals and finished 11-6-2.
Navarro came within a 1-0 eyelash loss to Tyler of reaching the NJCAA D-I Women’s Tournament Championship for a third straight season. Quality sophomore experience at the core, plus a solid freshman recruiting class gives the Bulldogs a real opportunity to play long into November.
The 12th-ranked Bulldogs return their top five goalscorers and top five pointmakers from 2015-16, and they’ve shored up areas of need through recruiting.
Jamaicans Deneisha Blackwood (14 goals, 7 assists and 35 points) and Shantell Thompson (9 goals, 7 assists and 25 points) represent two of Navarro’s most lethal threats.
Bermudan Aaliyah Nolan (8 goals, 7 assists and 23 points), Jamaican Tiffany Robinson (5 goals, 3 assists and 13 points), Trinidad-Tobago Olympic teamer Victoria Swift (5 goals, 2 assists and 12 points) and Sharifai Sharif (5 assists) give the Bulldogs added speed and scoring punch.
Freshmen Brooke Vining of Hallsville and Rebecca Cuellar of El Paso will compete for minutes in goal for Navarro.
Sophomore defenders Thalia Vasquez, Karina Martinez and University of St. Thomas transfer Erica Romero will compete with incoming defensive hopefuls Megan Hoppens, Kennedi Oxner, Melissa Hamilton, Haylea Ward and Hailey Osbourne as NC deepens and strengthens that phase of its game.
More freshman international talent — forward Margaret Samson from Zwolle, Netherlands and Jamaican Jamila Ashley — will force their way into the rotation. Key contributions are expected from freshman forwards Karina Trejo of Palestine and Yessy Hinojosa of LaPorte.
The Bulldogs open their season on the campus pitch here Friday, Aug. 26 when they host coach Freddy Drago’s Angelina Roadrunners. Drago, the former coach at Cisco, is serving as men’s and women’s coach of Region XIV’s newest soccer program.
NJCAA D-I PRESEASON SOCCER POLL
1. Eastern Florida State
5. Iowa Central
7. Iowa Western
8. Lewis & Clark
10. Paradise Valley
13. Johnson County
15. Spartanburg Methodist
16. Moraine Valley
19. Pearl River
20. Northern Oklahoma-Tonkawa