Trailing Navarro by a goal at halftime Sunday, the No. 1 Apache Ladies had a flashback to last year’s loss in the national final. It was not a pleasant memory, and they were determined not to repeat it.
Tyler Junior College came out for the second half and executed two corner kick-header goals to down Navarro, 2-1, and win the Region XIV soccer title at Pat Hartley Field.
Freshman forward Jodian Morris scored for the Bulldogs (12-5-1) on their only shot of the first half with 1:30 left. Morris hit a rocket shot into the top right corner of the net from 25 yards to put TJC down 1-0, the same score the Apache Ladies (20-0) lost by against Paradise Valley (Ariz.) last year for their only defeat.
“I told them it reminded me of the national championship game when we were down for the first time and we didn’t know how to handle it,” said TJC coach Corey Rose, whose team had never trailed in 2011 until Sunday.
Rose said TJC showed the character he knew it had in coming back in the second half.
Jahmela Williams scored the 1-1 equalizer by heading in a corner kick from Mineola’s Katie Miller with 28:45 remaining in the match. Danielle Connolly scored the 2-1 go-ahead header off a corner by Tori Rodriquez with 22:30 left.
TJC goalkeeper Hideka Shikata had to make just one save in the second half as the Apache Ladies advanced to the district final against the Mississippi winner next weekend. The district champion will advance to the national tournament in Melbourne, Fla.
“We’ve been practicing headers and crosses the past two weeks and not getting the goals,” said Connolly, a 5-5 sophomore defender from Scotland. “I just saw it coming and kind of closed my eyes. I was determined to get it; I wasn’t letting anybody get in my way.
“We’ve been working so hard on crossing and finishing … and to get two headers in one game, that’s a pretty good outcome.”
Scoring off traditional corner kicks in big games was a reminder of past TJC teams, but it wasn’t so much a part of this year’s club until Sunday.
“We can score any way, and that’s a good thing,” Rose said. “When it came down to it, the girls were challenging those balls. I kind of let the girls get a feel for things. If they want to serve the ball in and go up and challenge it, who am I to argue?
“They are at a point where they make a lot of decisions on the field, and us as a coaching staff just sit back and say we have to live with those decisions. They know what to look for; we’ve gone over that in practice. They know how to read the game a little bit.”
Chelsea Palmer put the ball in the net off a rebound with 5:26 left in the first half, but the goal was waved off by an offsides call.
TJC was pretty much camped out in the 18-yard box in the last 10 minutes of the half, but the Navarro defense held up and then the Bulldogs crossed midfield and surprised the home team with a goal.
SMOKE SIGNALS: The TJC football team will play Blinn College in the SWJCFC semifinals on Saturday in Brenham. Kickoff is 7 p.m. at Brenham HS Cub Stadium.