PORT ANGELES — In a battle of two unbeaten teams, Peninsula College showed the path to an NWAC North Division women’s soccer championship still goes through the North Olympic Peninsula.
The Whatcom Orcas had high hopes coming in to Wednesday’s match with defending NWAC champion Peninsula. They were 4-0-2 and would have been breathing down Peninsula’s neck for first place in the North with a win over the Pirates.
After the first half in which the Pirates held a slim 1-0 lead, that Orcas continued to have hope of knocking off the perennial North power.
But a flurry of Peninsula goals in the second half, thanks in large measure to Sam Oliveira, quickly buried the Orcas in a 4-0 hole. At the end of the match, the Pirates remained unbeaten and untied and all alone in first place.
Time and again in that second half, Peninsula sent long through balls to their leading scorer Oliveira, who kept pressuring the Orcas’ defense with impressive runs through their back line. Oliveira scored two second-half goals and drew a penalty in the box for a penalty kick and a goal, all in that second half.
“The game opened up. We made a couple of adjustments at halftime,” said coach Kanyon Anderson. “We were caught off-guard by their style [in the first half].”
Orcas didn’t park the bus
While the Pirates are undefeated, Anderson hasn’t been happy with some of their games this year, in which their opponents simply pack the back of the field with all 11 players to stop Peninsula from scoring.
Whatcom was far more aggressive, making a serious game of it with their offensive pressure for the first 60 minutes of the match. And the Pirates coaches and players were happy afterward, knowing they had beaten a pretty good team.
“I think sometimes playing a better team results in a better game. It was an end-to-end game and it opened up the play. We had a lot more room to attack. Whatcom came to play,” Anderson said.
Anderson thought Toni Powsey played a good game on the back line. Powsey was a controlling force on defense, winning a lot of loose balls while playing a middle defender position for the first time this year.
“Toni did a good job, Andrea was awesome,” Anderson said.
Oliveira now has nine goals on the season, second-most in the NWAC.
“Every team plays us differently,” Oliveira said of the Pirates’ early-game battle to break through the Orcas.
She said that in the second half, the Pirates figured out how to break down the Orcas’ back line of defense.
“As a player, you can guard me, but I will always have people coming up behind me who can score, too,” she said.
The Orcas actually had some very solid shots at the Pirates’ goal, but Peninsula keeper Andrea Kenagy had one of her best games ever as a Pirate. She was forced to make a total of seven saves, five of them in the first half.
A number of Kenagy’s saves were very good. One late save was spectacular.
“That’s probably the most action I’ve had all year,” Kenagy said. “They tested me a lot.”
Another one of Kenagy’s good saves, came early in the match when it was still very much in doubt. She had to make the risky decision to come away from the net when an Orcas forward got behind the Pirates’ defense for a one-on-one opportunity. Kenagy barely got to the ball in time to cradle it near the top of the penalty area.
“Either I come out or I get beat. I came out and said ‘that’s my ball.’ I refuse to get beat,” Kenagy said.
The game was scoreless until the 40th minute when the Pirates’ Adeline Becker broke through for the game’s first goal when she tipped in a cross from the right side by Alyssa Konarek. Up until that goal, the game had been even with both sides getting good chances. The Orcas nearly got a goal in stoppage time with Kenagy made one of her nice saves, leaping to block a high shot right before the whistle.
In the second half, Oliveira was knocked down in the box for a penalty in the 61st minute. In a huge turning point in the match, Kayla Alcott took the penalty shot and missed just wide to the left. But the referee allowed a rekick because an Orcas player jumped into the box early on Alcott’s first try. On her second try, she scored with a shot just inside the right post.
That seemed to change the momentum of the match as from that point on, it was the Pirates putting on most of the pressure.
Oliveira quickly scored again less than two minutes later on a long through ball, then scored a second goal four minutes after that to make it 4-0.
Kenagy saved her best save for last, making a spectacular diving save on what appeared to be a sure goal in the 79th minute to seal the match for good.
It was the Pirates’ sixth shutout in eight matches this year.
Peninsula (4-0-0, 8-0-0, 12 points) has another very tough test Saturday playing another team undefeated in North Division play Saturday in Everett (3-0-1, 7-1-1, 10 points).
Sports Editor Pierre LaBossiere can be contacted at 360-417-3525 or [email protected]