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The College of Southern Maryland Hawks women’s soccer team were battle-tested all season and had no problem overcoming tough tests, knocking off nationally ranked opponents in its road to success.

However, in the NJCAA Division I National Champiponship Tournament hosted by Eastern Florida State College in Melbourne, the tests became stiffer and the Hawks could not pass it this time.

Wednesday night, sixth-seeded Southern Maryland had its remarkable season come to a close as it fell 1-0 to the third-seeded Navarro College Bulldogs of Corsicana, Texas, to wrap up pool play. The Hawks also lost 1-0 the previous night in their tournament opener versus 10th-seeded Eastern Florida State, the national runner-up from a year ago.

With Wednesday’s loss, Southern Maryland (17-3 overall) was eliminated from the national showing, while a win would have advanced it to today’s semifinals.

It was special season for head coach Adam Sanchez and the program. The Hawks claimed a second straight Maryland Junior College Conference title, won their first Region XX title and captured its first District L title.

In a rainy affair on Wednesday, the game was scoreless until the 3 minute 10 second mark of the second half as Navarro (18-3-1) would finally strike.

As the Hawks tried to clear the ball, with everyone running up the field, Navarro’s Shanise Foster took possession and delivered a perfect pass to Trudi Carter, who drilled a shot that went past CSM sophomore goalkeeper Jasmine Biggs from about 30 yards out. It would be the eventual game-winning goal.

The Hawks would give Navarro a scare with seven minutes to play in the first half when a shot attempt bounced high and over the head of goalkeeper Kenia Medina.

But before the ball could cross the line, defender Megan Nutley saved it to prevent the goal.

“We weren’t able to create enough shots, but that’s what happens when you’re playing a real good team,” Sanchez said. “On defense, we didn’t give up a lot of scoring opportunities either. If you look at the score line, we lost 1-0 in both games, and just gave up one in the back of the net. Our defense was fantastic, we were just a couple shots away.”

CSM was without its leading goal scorer and sophomore striker Alysse Houston, a St. Mary’s Ryken High School graduate, who did not play because of a concussion she suffered in Tuesday’s game.

“It was upsetting having her out tonight, but our other forwards that stepped in tonight did a great job and are just as strong as her,” Hawks sophomore defender Brooke Carter said. “The coaches really prepared us well this season for regionals, districts and nationals. We had a great season and we couldn’t have done it without them. Even though we came up short, we gave it all we got until the very end. We deserved to make it this far.”

Tuesday’s loss ended CSM’s 14-game winning streak.

“The season was fantastic,” Sanchez said. “It’s the players that made it special, they are student-athletes that made it worthwhile to coach every day. I just tried to provide a good environment and let them have fun.”

Despite playing swarming defense in both contests, quality shots on goal were hard to come by offensively for the Hawks, as they had limited scoring chances throughout the tournament.

Tuesday, Eastern Florida State would break through seven minutes into the second half as Southern Maryland wasn’t able to clear the ball well enough and Amanda Hodge kicked a long shot that sailed over the head of Biggs and into the back of the net.

Coming into Tuesday’s contest, Eastern Florida State had lost to Navarro, 2-1, so it was in a must-win situation against CSM.

“They had a couple other dangerous opportunities at the net, but on that play they got a good look on goal and hit it from distance,” Sanchez said. “Eastern Florida has a very good team and they had to win. They did what they had to do. The ball just didn’t bounce our way.”

The Titans defense stopped nearly every run in the open field to help preserve their ninth shutout of the season.

The Hawks were shut out for the first time all season.

“Everyone gave their best efforts,” said sophomore defender Sydney Williams, a North Point graduate. “We had a couple injuries and without Alysse that hurt us, we had to adjust our formations. It’s disappointing, but this was the first time our program made it this far, and we finally got the recognition that we deserved.”

The Hawks had nine sophomores on the team that also included Jenn Foresta (Huntingtown), Samantha Geckle (McDonough), Lauren Larsen, Lindsey Stanbery (Calvert) and Breanna Sherman (North Point).

“They wanted it so badly and had high expectations all season,” Sanchez said. “We were a goal and a couple minutes shy of advancing, it was just tough. We represented the school well and showed great class.”

ajmason@somdnews.com