The Apache Ladies could finally relax.
What began with a canceled fall season, along with the uncertainties of attending classes or playing a schedule during the COVID-19 pandemic, concluded with a celebration.
The Tyler Junior College women’s soccer team not only played this spring, but topped it off with an unbeaten season and the NJCAA Division I Women’s Soccer National Tournament championship.
TJC defeated Salt Lake (Utah) 2-0 on Tuesday to win the title at Blanchard Woods Park in Evans, Georgia.
The team gathered in Wagstaff Gymnasium for another Breakfast with Champions on Thursday, the fourth time this spring that Dr. Juan E. Mejia, TJC president, and Kevin Vest, athletic director, honored a team that won a national championship. The Apache Ladies follow women’s tennis, men’s tennis and baseball.
Coach Corey Rose, who has led TJC to five national championships in a program that’s first season was in 2008, was overcome with emotion addressing the team via Zoom. He and his family were taking some R&R in South Carolina, just north of where the national tournament was held.
“Many people asked me why I would go from a four-year college (Belhaven) to a junior college,” Rose said. “This is why ...” as he compilmented his team and noted that TJC is a special place.
Tyler only allowed one goal in the tournament, which occurred in their first game of the tournament within the first minute to Spartanburg Methodist (South Carolina). The Apache Ladies then scored 19 straight goals — 7-1 over Spartanburg Methodist, 6-0 over Indians Hills (Iowa), 4-0 over Snow (Utah) and topped off by the 2-0 win over Salt Lake.
For the second time, Mukarama Abdulai, a 5-8 sophomore forward from Tamale, Ghana, was named Most Valuable Player. She won the award in 2019 the last time the tournament was held, also a national championship for Tyler.
Alexia Moreira, a 5-10 sophomore midfielder from just south of Tyler in Jacksonville, was voted Most Valuable Offensive Player with Hitomi Yamaue, a 5-3 sophomore defender from Okayama, Japan, tabbed Most Valuable Defensive Player.
Also making all-tournament were Ayana Aoyagi (5-5 sophomore goalkeeper, Brisbane, Australia) and Natalie Martinez (4-11 sophomore midfielder, Perry Iowa).
This is the Apache Ladies’ fifth women’s soccer championship and second consecutive for the program. They have appeared in the national championship game every season since 2016, winning three titles during that stretch.
Vest also noted head trainer Eddy McGuire and his student managers were instrumental in the success of the teams.
Others attending were Kelsi Weeks, assistant athletic director; Chuck Smith, associated athletic director; Dr. Deana Sheppard, Provost & Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs & Chief Academic Officer; Dr. Tim Drain, Associate Vice Provost — Student Affairs; and baseball coach Doug Wren.
The only disappointment by the team was that they barely finished second behind the Apache Ladies volleyball in the Grade Point Average race.
The competition never ends.