No. 12 Navarro Bests Lady Roadrunners in Conference Opener


CORSICANA – It was a good game plan – the right game plan for an opponent known for its speed and ability to mount a pressing attack.

For much of the first half, the Angelina College Lady Roadrunners played the plan to near perfection. But a single call changed everything, and Navarro’s Lady Bulldogs, ranked 12 th in the nation, capitalized in taking a 3-0 win over AC in the conference opener for both teams.

Navarro’s Shantell Thompson converted a penalty kick in the 30 th minute of the first half, forcing AC head coach Freddy Drago to change from his defensive-minded approach. Navarro added another PK from Thompson in the second half, and sandwiched between those scores was a goal off a header from Lady Bulldog Aaliyah Nolan.

Things could have been worse: Lady ‘Runner keeper Nanci Juarez-Sedano finished the match with seven saves, with several of those on-target off Lady Bulldog feet.

AC head coach Freddy Drago said the game plan was one of necessity, considering a skilled opponent featuring numerous players with international ties.

Angelina College’s Alexis Barrientez (6) kicks the ball away from Navarro’s Deneisha Blackwood Angelina College goalkeeper Nanci Juarez-Sedano slide kicks the ball away from Navarro’s Deneisha Blackwood during Thursday’s game in Corsicana. Juarez-Sedano would finish with seven saves, but the No. 12 Lady Bulldogs handed the Lady Roadrunners a 3-0 loss in the conference opener for both teams. (AC Press photo by Gary Stallard)

“We were playing defensive soccer,” Drago said. “We know they have great speed, and we were trying not to give them those through balls with their fastest players. We were trying to take up space, so we backed up and played the way we wanted.

“The way we set up the game today is a little different than what we’d like to play, but you have to modify your system according to the team you’re playing. We knew we were going to play a very talented Navarro group, and we did what we thought we’d have to do to make things tough on them.”

Juarez-Sedano proved a pleasant surprise, especially considering she wasn’t on the team two weeks ago.

“Nanci was a great pickup for us,” Drago said. “We lost both our goalkeepers before the first game, and Nanci’s a local girl from Nacogdoches that some of the girls and boys on our teams knew. She was already enrolling at AC, so we were able to get her set up to play this week. She came up huge several times today.”

Because of the focus on defending, the Lady Roadrunners didn’t push their own attack the way they plan to do in most games. AC’s best scoring opportunities came in transition, with Kennedy Sessions and Leslie Saenz each taking shots that just missed.

Despite the loss, Drago said his team performed well against one of the best teams in the conference.

“The girls played tough,” Drago said. “We had a couple of calls that didn’t go our way, and when you’re talking about two of those goals coming on PKs, that’s hard to overcome. I thought the first one was a little questionable, but that sort of dictated the way the rest of the game would go for us. Up to that point, we were playing great and keeping them out of the net.

“The girls didn’t give up playing against a very good team.”

The Lady Roadrunners (0-2, 0-1) will next play at home on Tuesday in a non-conference match against Ranger College. The game is part of an AC doubleheader, with the women kicking off at 6 p.m. and the Roadrunner men following at 8 p.m. The games will take place at Lufkin High School’s Jase Magers Soccer Complex.

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Sports Information Director Gary Stallard, who also serves as a Liberal Arts Instructor, begins his eleventh season with Angelina College. Following a career as a U.S. Marine, Stallard completed his bachelor’s degree at Stephen F. Austin University, where he majored in English and Journalism. For more than 16 years, he has worked as a sports writer/columnist/photographer for the Lufkin Daily News; he continues to contribute free-lance articles on occasion. Stallard has won several awards for writing, including the Golden Hoops Award for basketball writing in 2003, Regional Sports Writer of the Year in 2004, and the Texas Press Association’s first-place award for column writing in 2007 and in 2014. He has also done basketball, football and baseball radio and live streaming play-by- play and color commentary for an ESPN affiliate. Currently Stallard serves as play-by-play broadcaster for AC basketball, baseball and softball games. Prior to arriving at Angelina College, Stallard taught English at Lufkin High School for four years. He currently teaches Developmental Writing classes at AC. He and his wife Susan live in Lufkin.