12 Aug Young NC soccer team’s goal: winning championships
By MIKE PHILLIPS / Corsicana Sun
Alicia Wilson’s not looking for any sympathy, and she sure doesn’t need any doubters around her nationally-respected women’s soccer team at Navarro, where the Bulldogs have the same goal every year: To win the NJCAA national title.
That won’t change in 2019 despite the fact that Wilson has 18 (that’s right, eighteen) new faces on the field this year.
“We have the same goal, the same plan,” she said at a recent practice. “Our goal is to get to the nationals and win the title.”
Wilson’s team can play with any junior college women’s team in the nation — and that can be said every year she has been at Navarro.
Her last two teams were both good enough to win it all, but just fell short. Her Bulldogs lost to eventual national champion Tyler two years ago 1-0 on one of the most ridiculous and controversial calls you will ever see when Tyler scored the winning goal on an obvious handball.
He team fought its way to nationals last season and made it to the second round of play, where it took two overtimes and a penalty kick ending to end Navarro’s season.
The Bulldogs went 15-2-2 a year ago and outscored opponents 90-10 in an awesome display of offense and an incredible defense led by goalkeeper Maitane Bravo, one of the top players in the nation.
But Wilson knows this is a new year with a brand new group that somehow must replace Bravo and a fast and talented group of lethal scorers that were led by All-American Wasila Diwura, who scored 18 goals and handed out 16 assists.
Navarro’s leading scorer was Valentin Carvajal, who scored 19 goals and had 10 assists, and Andrea Rabanales was a key part of the offense as well, handing out a team-leading 17 assists (she had 35 in two seasons) while scoring nine goals.
All of that offense is gone, but Wilson feels even though this year’s team might not score as much, there’s no reason the new group won’t win.
“We might have score goals like we did last year, but we will just have to play a different game, and be better on defense. But the plan is the same, to keep winning.
Wilson, who has done an amazing job coaching and recruiting in her four years at Navarro replaced Bravo with another goalkeeper from Spain, and believes Laura Jansa brings the same kind of skills and leadership to Navarro that Bravo displayed the last two seasons.
Jansa has the same quickness and the same confidence and has already won over her teammates.
“She’s Spiderman,” said freshman midfielder Alyssa Tullier of the Navarro keeper.
Wilson believes this year’s strength will be its defense and one reason is freshman Manaka Kaneko, and speedy and tough defender from Japan, who will be one of the leaders on the backside along with Manyima Stevelmans, a freshman from The Netherlands.
Wilson also believes some of her sophomores who were key players last year will step up into bigger roles and score more, making up some of the difference that will be left on the field with the absence of Diwura, Carvajal and Rabanales.
Soccer is like basketball. There’s only one ball to score with on the field.
Some of the key players returning include Roneisha Frank, who showed speed and skill up front last year. She scored seven goals and had five assists and everyone at Navarro envisions those numbers increasing this season.
Briana Garza is another sophomore who should have more opportunities to score. Garza scored five goals and had four assists a year ago.
Tateyana Pitter scored two goals and had an assist in her role last year, but she will see a lot more playing time and hopefully will see a lot more balls find the back of the net, and newcomer Rafuata Alhassan, a midfielder from Ghana, brings the speed and potential to be a big scorer for the Bulldogs.
Wilson, who was a remarkable national player for Jamaica and a fierce defender who had a memorable professional career, has done a remarkable job at Navarro and has produced one top-ranked team after another.
Nothing slowed her down on the field as a player, and she doesn’t see anything slowing down her program this season, despite 18 new and eager faces.