On the afternoon of November 20, the Tyler Junior College Lady Apaches secured their spot as the number one junior college team in the nation. The Lady Apaches soccer team completed their quest for a perfect 24-0 season by beating the Lady Cavaliers of Darton College of Georgia 1-0 in one of the toughest challenges they had experienced up until the championship.
Chelsea Palmer scored the only goal with 36:30 left in the game off a clutch assist from Bianca Norman. Both girls would later admit that their game-changing score was not exactly a result of what they had drawn.
“I caught the ball, and I tried to kick it to Chelsea and it skimmed off her head and went into the goal,” said Bianca Norman, the championship’s Offensive MVP. “I didn’t know it went in at first, and then I saw everybody’s reaction and I was like ‘yeah!'”
Even though they managed to score the first goal and take the lead, there was still an ample amount of time left on the scoreboard, and the Apache defense needed to lock down the Darton College offense.
“I knew it was fairly early, and I looked at the clock and said to myself, ‘thirty-six minutes, man that’s a lot of time’,” said Corey Rose, head coach of the women’s soccer team. “The clock was moving slow, and when you’re focusing on the clock, time takes forever.”
It was imperative for the girls to remain focused, because they knew they were still far from securing their championship rings. Defensive MVP Danielle Connolly headed the assault.
“I was like, ‘its still too early’,” said Chelsea Palmer.
It was a battle, and both teams were going back and forth, with neither of the two teams possessing a field position advantage for very long.
“It was a fight to the finish,” said Norman.
Repeatedly the Lady Apaches proved that their defense was too much for Darton College to overcome. Eventually, the clock hit zero, and the girls were ecstatic when they knew that they were once again the NJCAA National Champions.
“I almost cried before the game was over at 23 seconds,” said Jahmela Williams, one of the Apaches three All-Tournament honors recipients, including Bianca Norman and Lauren Emmerson.
The Lady Apaches were forced to play week after week with a titanic amount of pressure to remain undefeated.
“Everyone was out to beat us,” said Norman
The girls explained that they weren’t just playing for themselves, but they were playing for everyone who supported them— for their families, their friends, and their school.
“We represented the school, women, and everyone who believed in us,” said Lauren Emmerson.
Rose believed that the thing that made this team successful was their extensive amount of sophomore leadership. Out of the twenty-six players on this year’s team, fourteen were sophomores.
“We had great sophomore leadership,” said Rose. “It’s sad to see some of the girls leave, but it’s not that we are seeing them leave for their careers to be finished. We’re just moving them on to bigger and better things,” said Rose.