BY MIKE PHILLIPS / Corsicana Sun
Just call them Navarr-0000.
There are good defensive teams, and there are great defensive teams, and then there’s what they have at Navarro, where the women’s soccer teams leads the NJCAA in shutouts and togetherness.
And not necessarily in that order.
Just listen to goalkeeper Maitane Bravo, who is the top rated junior college goalkeeper in the country.
“I’m not No. 1,” Bravo said. “The team is No. 1.”
Bravo, who is from Spain and was recruited by several Division I schools before coming to Navarro, has four shutouts in six games, but she is adamant about giving the credit to her teammates, saying it’s the close bond these players have that make it so difficult to score on the Bulldogs.
“We are so close off the field and that carries over to what we do on the field,” Bravo said. “We play for each other.”
You won’t find a more vocal leader in the net. Bravo is constantly shouting encouragement and directions to her teammates, like Peyton Manning pointing to his receivers before the snap, or a linebacker like Ray Lewis, pointing and shouting to set up his defense.
She’s loud and animated, arms flying with a voice full of passion, but above all else, Bravo appreciates everyone of this team.
“I have a very good defense,” Bravo said. “They make it easy for me. If I need help, they are always there.”
That’s the secret of this defense — they’re always there for each other.
For now, just call them Navarr-0000.
They opened their season by shutting out No. 6 Iowa Western, one of the nation’s perennial elite programs, and the team that beat Navarro in the 2013 NJCAA Championship game. After taking care of Iowa Western with a dominating 2-0 victory, the Dawgs smothered No. 7 ranked Butler 2-0, taking everything away from the national powerhouse Grizzlies, who needed a GPS to find the net and spent an afternoon looking for it. Butler had scored in a 29 consecutive matches dating back to the 2015 NJCAA Tournament semifinal before the match with NC.
The Bulldogs shut out Cisco 2-0 on the road Tuesday. They gave up a goal to Richland on a penalty kick that came on a controversial call, and then gave up a goal Friday in a 5-1 rout of Cisco’s Lady Wranglers at home that came late in the game against back-ups.
Bravo and the ‘Dogs picked up their fourth shutout Saturday in a 4-0 rout over Ranger that could have been much worse. The Bulldogs sent a barrage of shots at Ranger, especially in the second half when Ghana freshman Wasila Diwura was moved to the front line. Diwura played defense in the first half and was unleashed in the second half when she scored a goal and ignited the offense. She’s scored five goals in six games, and might be as dangerous as any player in the country.
Lorraine Canavan scored twice and just missed the hat trick in the second half when Ranger goaltender Valentina Bonavio, made a diving save for one of her nine stops during the second half.
Canavan scored her first goal when she took a nice cross from Andrea Rabanales and quickly turned and fired in a shot with the speed and accuracy of a gunfighter. It was a don’t-blink kind of shot that gave the Bulldogs a 2-0 lead with 5:09 left in the half.
Canavan, who is from Forney, teamed up with Rabanales, who is from Guatemala, again in the second half when Rabanales drove down the middle and then sent a perfect cross to Canavan, who was coming in from about 20 yards on the left side. Canavan drilled in a 3-0 lead.
The defense, which included brilliant play from Melissa Hamilton, Belinda Anane, Laura Duran and Brooke Davis, made life easy for Bravo, who needed only two saves to chalk up another shutout.
That’s the way Navarro’s D is playing, a tight group with an even tighter grip on the game, closing down lanes, making steals and controlling the game.
“It’s just the kids,” said head coach Alicia Wilson, who had an incredible career playing international and professional soccer as a lightning-quick defender. “This is an awesome group.”
The Bulldogs play Jacksonville in the conference opener at home at 4 pm Monday.
Ranked fourth nationally after their awesome start in a demanding schedule, no one is celebrating.
“We have to work hard and keep getting better,” said Diwura. “Our goal is to in a national championship. We are going to work and get better and better and better and better — 10 times better than we are now.”
MORE SOCCER PHOTOS: Keith’s Sports Photos