SPORTS: Peninsula College men’s soccer advances to championship game today

TUKWILA — The Peninsula College men’s soccer team finally found itself on the right side of a 1-0 game at the NWAACC Final Four.

Miguel Gonzalez banged home a Matt Stefanko pass in the 70th minute and the third-ranked Pirates upset No. 1 Columbia Basin 1-0 Saturday to advance to the NWAACC championship game today at the Starfire Athletic Complex.

“They were as good as we thought they were going to be,” Pirates head coach Andrew Chapman said.

“It was a very, very close game. Very intense.

“We just kept the offensive pressure on them. We made them have to play for 90 minutes at a very high pace.”

And eventually, Gonzalez broke through with the Pirates’ first Final Four goal in three trips to Tukwila.

Peninsula (12-3-4 overall) had lost each of its past two semifinal appearances 1-0 in 2007 and ’08.

But this time, the Pirates weren’t going to be denied their first trip to the NWAACC finals in school history.

They will take on West Division rival Highline for the NWAACC crown today at 5:30 p.m.

Highline (13-3-4) comes in riding a 12-match unbeaten streak that includes a pair of wins over the Pirates and Saturday’s 3-1 victory against Shoreline in the other semifinal.

“Our guys were looking forward to that,” Chapman said. “That’s one thing they’ve talked about for a long time, was, ‘We want Highline.’ Well, they’ve got them now.”

Much of the thanks can go to the defense.

Pirates goalkeeper Jared Wilson came up with six saves in his sixth shutout of the season.

Few of those came easy either, with Columbia Basin getting three separate point blank shots turned away by the freshman.

“He had some fantastic saves,” Chapman said. ” He did fantastic coming up and saving those, and Jeff Mullen had a very, very good game back [in central defense].”

Of course, that would have meant little without Gonzalez’s score.

The freshman from Yelm got his chance late in the second half on a counter attack.

Peninsula played the ball down to Stefanko on the outside, who brought the ball down with his feet and passed it into the box as Gonzalez rushed in.

The 5-foot-8 striker then blasted the ball to the far post, just past the hands of Columbia Basin’s keeper, and into the net for his school record 15th goal of the season.

“The goal keeper got a hand on it, but it was still able to go in,” Chapman said. “Everybody was very excited after that.

“In four games we hadn’t had any goals [at the Final Four], and finally we got a goal out of it.”

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