What a great weekend for the Beautiful Game.
We had looked forward all week to Saturday, when the planets in the soccer universe aligned to give us a triple-header at Wally Sigmar Field.
First, an undefeated and untied Peninsula College women’s team won to earn yet another trip to the Northwest Athletic Conference Final Four. Honestly, there wasn’t a lot of tension over this game as the defending champion women came in to Saturday’s match ranked No. 1 in the NWAC and carrying a staggering 32-game winning streak.
The women quickly ended the suspense, scoring four goals en route to a shutout win.
The men’s game was more nerve-wracking. Peninsula had lost two heartbreakers in a row in the quarterfinals at Sigmar. One in a penalty kick shootout two years ago. Another on a penalty called in the box in overtime that led to a game-winning penalty kick.
I’ll never forget the penalty kick loss. The game was played on a freezing cold day in a total deluge. It was nearly night during the penalty kicks — this was before the lights were installed at the field. It was so dark that to this day I honestly wonder if the game should have been suspended.
The heartbreak was painful for the men. I’m used to the stoicism of hockey. You have a bone sticking out your leg? Suck it up. Don’t show your opponent anything. Soccer is a very emotional game by comparison. After those matches, I watched grown men cry.
There was no heartbreak on Saturday as the men took care of business, winning 3-0. Personally, I had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach that it was another day that was going to end badly. Peninsula was hanging on to a 1-0 lead, but kept missing close shot after close shot. The Wenatchee Valley goalkeeper was damn good and made two or three of the best saves I’ve ever seen (plus the Knights’ sweeper stopped another sure goal).
But, the Pirates persevered, finally breaking through for a second goal and then picking up a third on a penalty kick. They’re going back to the Final Four for the first time since 2015.
If you can’t get to Tukwila for the games on Friday and Sunday, be sure to try and watch both teams on YouTube (just type in NWAC Sports Network once you get to YouTube). The teams are solid, talented and fun to watch.
Prep drama in the fog
To cap off the special day Saturday, Sequim and Port Angeles played a third match at Sigmar as the field became more and more enclosed in clouds. I actually thought both teams would somewhat go through the motions since they had both already qualified for the state playoffs and this game would simply decide who was third and who was fourth in the district.
Boy, was I wrong. They went at it. The girls on both teams were dead serious about winning that game. The two squads had split a pair of games earlier this season and Saturday night’s game in the ethereal fog literally came down to a few inches. The Riders scored one goal and Sequim keeper Olivia Hare got her hands on that Millie Long shot, she simply couldn’t corral it enough to keep it out.
Meanwhile, Port Angeles goalie Madi Roening somehow got a foot on a hard shot from Hope Glasser to keep a ball out of the goal, then barely got her fingertips on a high shot, knocking it into the crossbar.
Literally a few inches separate these two powerful teams.
Port Angeles gets another game at Sigmar at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday for their state opener, the Roughriders’ first-ever state tournament game held at home (it wasn’t possible before without the lights at Peninsula College). Looking at the state tournament bracket, it’s entirely possible that Sequim and Port Angeles could actually meet a fourth time, possibly again at Sigmar for the opportunity to go to the state semifinals.
How incredible would that be?
Now, on top of ALL that, came the Sounders game on Saturday as Seattle won its second Major League Soccer championship in four years. All of that in a period of roughly 24 hours.
Perhaps the popularity of the Sounders plays a role. I believe the strength of the Peninsula teams is definitely a factor. The Rider girls have gone to the state tournament three out of the past four years while the Wolves have gone two years in a row — and the boys’ teams in the spring are both powerhouses, as well.
The Olympic Peninsula is lucky to have become such a mecca for soccer. I’m genuinely amazed by what is going on this autumn and even as someone who isn’t supposed to have a cheering interest, it’s hard not to get caught up in it. I’m definitely cheering for Port Angeles and Sequim to play a fourth game, though I dread the heartbreak for the team that would lose that game.
So, soak it in while you can, because this level of success doesn’t come around all the time.