Building a dynasty: Paradise Valley wins NJCAA National Championship

PVCC midfielder/defender Bailey Forysland (5) guards the ball against Phoenix College midfielder Evelyn Ramirez Leon (15) during a Sept. 27 match between the two schools. (photo by Josh Martinez)

PVCC midfielder/defender Bailey Forysland (5) guards the ball against Phoenix College midfielder Evelyn Ramirez Leon (15) during a Sept. 27 match between the two schools. (photo by Josh Martinez)

A National Championship is returning to Paradise Valley Community College as the women’s soccer team built its dynasty further with its third National Junior College Athletic Association championship in seven years.

The top-seeded Pumas capped off their undefeated season (25–0–1) with a 3–1 win over Tyler Junior College to win the NJCAA title Saturday, Nov. 19 in Melbourne, Fla.

“To win the National Championship feels exhilarating, yet expected,” PVCC Jamie Iurato said in a Nov. 21 email response to questions. “It was an accomplishment we worked all year for and held the standard at. So when it came along it felt like we had succeeded in all that we tried to accomplish. It was surreal.”

Forward/midfielder Jacey Duncan scored off a corner kick just three minutes into the match and defender Janessa Dunbar doubled that lead in the 50th minute with a successful penalty kick.

Tyler forward O’Shay Nelson, however, cut PVCC’s lead to 2–1 in the 79th minute, but Iurato responded nine minutes later with her 48th goal of the season to ensure the win.

With that goal, Iurato secured her spot in the PVCC record book and as the top NJCAA Division I scorer in the nation.

“To know that I have the ability to accomplish something that seems nearly impossible is eye-opening,” Iurato said. “I know God has given me this talent and wants me to move forward with helping those who come after me to set and accomplish goals that seem impossible. It feels amazing to know that I am the number one goal scorer in the nation.”

Paradise Valley’s run to the title started after wins over Moraine Valley Community College and Parkland College to advance out of the tournament pool play. The Pumas then defeated Monroe Community College in the semifinals.

PVCC’s lone draw came in the semifinal match where a penalty kick shootout decided the victor. The NJCAA still credited that match as a draw despite PVCC winning in the shootout.

PVCC goalkeeper Arielle Perez makes a stop on a shot during a Sept. 27 match against Phoenix College. (photo by Josh Martinez)

PVCC goalkeeper Arielle Perez makes a stop on a shot during a Sept. 27 match against Phoenix College. (photo by Josh Martinez)

This was head coach Jon Ruzan’s first National Championship with the Pumas as the school won national titles in 2010 and 2012 under former head coach Kacey Bingham.

Coach Ruzan said winning the title was an emotional moment for both him and his team.

“I have castigated them throughout the season about enjoying the run,” he said in a press release. “They say the team is a reflection of their coaches and I don’t do a very good job celebrating victories but I have been telling them all week to enjoy this. We are going to enjoy this.”

The Pumas also earned more hardware as goalkeeper Arielle Perez took home Defensive MVP and midfielder Karina Lopez-Martinez earned Offensive MVP for the tournament. Perez stopped 18 shots during the tournament, stopping 12 in the semifinal match and six in the final, while Lopez-Martinez notched three goals and an assist during the tournament run.

Additionally, both Iurato and midfielder America Garcia earned spots on the All-Tournament team.

Season Notes

The Pumas finished the regular season 20–0, beating teams by an average of four goals. This effort in the regular season led to PVCC taking the Arizona Community College Athletic Conference title, earning them the No. 1 seed for the National Tournament.

Iurato was the team’s top scorer throughout the season as she ended with 42 regular season goals, shattering the old record of 29 goals. Iurato will take her talents to St. George, Utah to play for NCAA Division II school Dixie State University.

This was PVCC’s first 20-win regular season since 2010 when Coach Bingham, who now coaches at Dixie State, led the Pumas. All three of PVCC’s National Championships have come in undefeated seasons with the team going 23–0–2 in 2012 and 24–0–0 in 2010.

The Pumas ended the regular season as the No. 1 team in the nation according to the NJCAA Poll, giving them the No. 1 seed in the tournament.

Additionally, Paradise Valley also broke the team records for most goals scored in a season, 105, and most wins in a season, 25. Defensively, the Pumas only allowed 15 goals this season with Perez going 20–0–1 and fellow goalkeeper Madison Lucas finishing 5–0.

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