Foley, AL - The field is all set for the 2018 NJCAA DI Women's Soccer National Tournament in Foley, AL. The Iowa Western Reivers received the third seed and is grouped with Navarro College (Texas) and Paradise Valley CC (Arizona).
The draw pits the Reivers against familiar national tournament foes as the each have recent history in the finals. The Pumas from PVCC last faced IWCC in the 2012 semifinals, which the Pumas controversially won in a penalty-kick shootout. PVCC would go on to lift the first place trophy 24 hours later. PVCC would repeat as national champions in 2016. Things worked out better for the Reivers in 2013 as IWCC faced Navarro College in the championship match. The Reivers won 3-1 against a very talented Bulldog squad to capture the National Championship. Navarro and IW have split results the last 2 times they faced each other; a 2-1 Reiver win in Council Bluffs in 2015 and a 2-0 Navarro win in Tyler, Texas in 2017. The recent history and success of this grouping makes this group one of the most exciting storylines of the tournament. The 2018 tournament edition features the first time at-large bids have been used in the qualification process making this year's path to the final as difficult as ever. Navarro, who lost to #1 Tyler Junior College in their region final, benefitted from receiving the at-large bid.
"I think this is a fantastic draw in terms of match-ups. Three great teams that have had success at the tournament all vying for a spot in the semifinals," commented head coach Adam Sanchez. "The margins don't get any slimmer and whoever emerges has to be one of the favorites to win it all. These are going to be 2 instant classics. We have to be at our very best. Navarro held the #1 spot for several weeks this season and Paradise Valley is red hot having knocked off previous #1 Arizona Western 4-0 and beat a very good Salt Lake CC squad to clinch an automatic bid. Throw rankings out the window, these are going to be great games and we are very, very excited about the challenge. We're up for it and I know our opponents are too. It will be exciting to follow this group alone."
The Reivers are built to make a deep run as depth is key in an event that features so many fixtures in a short amount of time. The Reivers knocked off ICCAC runner-ups without the ICCAC Player of the Year, Laura Chavez, in the Region XI Championship Match. Freshman Kauany Sousa continued her stellar year by netting a hat trick in the region final then netted four in the Great Lakes District Final. She now holds the IW record for highest goals per game average in program history.
"Kauany is in excellent form. She's finding good areas to run into and has been very good on the ball. It seems anytime she is near the goal she is a threat to score," commented Sanchez.
Sousa may be grabbing the headlines as of late, but the team has been exceptional all year. Offensively, the Reivers sit 5th in the country in goals scored with 109. Thirteen players have scored at least 2 goals or more, 5 in double figures. Chavez leads the way in assists with 29, good for 2nd in the country, but a staggering 18 players have registered an assist throughout the season. Defensively, the Reivers are 5th in the country in shutouts with 13 shutouts in 18 matches. Its 6 goals conceded is good enough for 3rd in the country. The Reivers have only allowed more than one goal in a match once; a 2-1 overtime defeat to Snow College back in August.
All of this means little to a Reiver team that has had its sights on the national tournament since the end of last season.
"Everything we've accomplished is just building toward the post season, to now. We've accomplished a lot this season, but our goals haven't changed. Our accomplishments thus far have only been to help us get to this point in the season. We want more. We're hungry for more. We want to raise the bar even higher for Iowa Western, our soccer program, and each individual player. These are the moments we dream for and prepare for. I'm excited for next week. The players are excited for next week. It will be a lot of fun", explained Sanchez.
The Reivers open up tournament play against Paradise Valley on Monday, November 12 at 5:00 pm CST. Navarro and IWCC then closes out group play on Wednesday, November 14 at 5:00 pm CST. The top team advances to the semifinal on Friday, November 16. Tournament matches can be found at www.njcaatv.com.