TUKWILA — The stakes were high and the drama even higher as the Peninsula College men’s soccer team was forced to go to 11 penalty kicks to finally beat Highline in the NWAC championship match Sunday.
An exuberant Nil Grau, the North Region MVP, was interviewed after the match and said that something felt different about the team after a midseason loss.
“It’s been a lot of ups and downs this season, but I feel over the last month, we were invincible,” Grau said.
“All these guys, all these lads deserve it. We are all family. We all deserve it,” he said.
Peninsula and Highline ended regulation and two overtimes tied 2-2, sending the game to penalty kicks.
Both teams were nearly flawless as the entire Peninsula lineup — Nil Grau, Abdurahim Leigh, Brian Guzman, Tsubasa Abe, Pip van de Ende, Matthew Enriquez, Alfie Tucker, Fin Muotune, Zach Beehre and Brandon Wagner (Sequim) all made their kicks.
There were two especially dramatic moments in the penalty kicks. On Muotone’s first kick, the Highline keeper actually made the save to give Highline an advantage. But the referee ruled that the keeper had moved early, giving Muotune a rekick, which he made.
The same thing happened to Peninsula on the following kick as Laurin Lettow made a save to give Peninsula an apparent victory. But a rekick was awarded because Lettow had moved early.
Tied 10-10, the teams went back through the lineups and Grau made his second penalty kick. On the 22nd penalty kick, Lettow made another save. This time, there were no fouls and it stood up, giving the Pirates the victory.
Peninsula got off to a fast start, getting a goal from Matthew Enriquez in the third minute, assisted by Grau.
Highline tied it soon afterward, getting a score from the Thunderbirds dangerous forward Zane May.
It remained 1-1 until the 54th minute when Leigh scored on an assist by Rei Sato. The Pirates nearly got an insurance goal in the 83rd minute when Grau hit a near-perfect header on a corner kick, but the ball went off the crossbar and stayed out.
Highline effectively pressured much of the second half and had a number of scary chances on free kicks and corner kicks.
Alfie Tucker made a save on a potential goal on a cross right in front of the goal mouth midway through the second half. Tucker, a defensive player, moved in to sweep the ball out of the trouble area.
Peninsula was only a few minutes away from victory when Highline scored an equalizer in the 86th minute when a shot went off the crossbar. There were only 10 Pirates players involved in the play as a Peninsula player was down on the ground injured. There was a scramble for the loose ball and it went right to the Thunderbirds’ Damoni McKenna-Greenawalt, who kicked it in to tie the game 2-2.
Peninsula also won the NWAC champion in 2019 on penalty kicks. It is the sixth championship for the Pirates, who also won in 2010, 2012, 2013 and 2015.