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Navarro Wins in Overtime to Advance to Title Game
Navarro goalkeeper Kenia Medina keeps the ball out of the goal.
Nov 22, 2013 - After 97 minutes and 12 seconds of nip and tuck, great turn, great save and near miss soccer, Navarro College sophomore Naialani Garcia, heel fractures and all, put the ball into the net and her team into the NJCAA Women's Division I National Soccer Championship final.
Thanks to its 1-0 overtime victory over fifth seed Butler Community College, third seed Navarro meets top seed Iowa Western in Saturday's 7 p.m. championship game on Eastern Florida State College's Melbourne Campus. Iowa Western defeated Laramie County Community College on penalty kicks earlier Friday.
The final will be carried live on the web at NJCAA.org and via Space Coast Sports webcast plus it will be broadcast on Eastern Florida's television station WEFS-TV starting at 6:30 p.m. EST. WEFS can be viewed over the air on channel 68.1 and on Bright House cable via channels 9, 455 and 1068.
Friday's Navarro-Butler game was scoreless after 90 minutes but Navarro showed fresher legs in the overtime and with 2:48 to play in the first 10-minute session, Garcia beat stellar freshman goalkeeper Kelsi Langley and the Bulldogs were headed for the big game.
Butler had the better of the play over Navarro in the first half but Navarro freshman goalkeeper Kenia Medina and her defense thwarted the Grizzlies time and time again. Navarro had several chances as well - one shot hit the crossbar early – but spent much of the half on its heels.
Butler pressed again in the second half with Navarro getting down the field as well. But the more Butler pressed the more the tenacious Navarro defense kept the nation's top-scoring team at bay. Extra time beckoned and extra time was answered.
Navarro pressured in overtime as its overwhelming edge in substitutions – 35 to 6 two minutes into the first overtime – began to make a difference.
Navarro had the first best chance but was denied by Langley who made a two-handed punch save. But not long after Garcia beat Langley and it was over.
"I didn't think I was going to be able to give all of that," an exuberant Garcia, ice on both feet, said after the game.
"I was like 'you what I am just going to give it my all and go hard.' I kind of freaked out a little bit I was like 'I have to get this, come on,' she added about the goal. "So I just took a deep breath, I just placed it back corner, goalie couldn't get it. It was perfect. Thank God.
"It's been a hard season playing with this (fractures)."
And it was that hard season of soccer for the entire team and an even more difficult tournament in which Navarro won its three games 2-1, 1-0 and 1-0 that figured into head coach Debbie Bonner's aggressive substitutions.
"This is a long series and at this point in time we're trying to save bodies and keep everyone going at the highest rate possible," she said. "We feel that's our best way to do it. We don't drop off. We have that going for us so we take advantage of it."
For his part Butler head coach Adam Hunter acknowledged the difference in depth.
"We started to tire there at the end of regulation and even in the overtime," he said. "To be honest the kids we had out there gave us the best chance to win. Would I have liked to have been deeper? I would have but we had to go with the kids who got us here."
And those kids, Hunter said, had superb seasons.
"Our sophomore class was the greatest two years in the history of our program," Hunter said. "I think they won 45 games, went undefeated for two years in conference play, two national tournaments, final four appearance.
"This group has helped take us to the next level."
That's where Navarro finds itself now, preparing for the ultimate game.
"It's going to be a hard, it's going to be a very hard game," Bonner said. "We've got to go back, rehab, get them ready to go. It's going to be a dogfight, absolutely because they're (Iowa Western) tremendous."
But on Friday Navarro was as well.
"They understand the game well," Bonner said of her team. "Sometimes you just have to re-group. They did, got themselves going again."