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Pirates set sail for playoffs
Peninsula secured a ticket to the NWAACC playoffs with a 1-0 win against Shoreline on Saturday.
Perhaps a bit of carryover from Halloween the night before, Peninsula and Shoreline's Dolphins battled to a suspenseful 0-0 tie until, with seven minutes left in the game, Hugo Vasquez chipped in a free kick rebounded out to Teagan Cambier, who calmly chipped in the shot for a game-winner.
It was Peninsula's sixth win in a row, the Pirates' 11th consecutive game without a defeat.
"I told the guys we wanted to clinch the playoffs at home; we have lots of great fans," Peninsula coach Andrew Chapman said.
Alec Risk had six saves and recorded the shutout, the Pirates' ninth of the season.
Peninsula out-shot Shoreline 17-11.
That means the black-and-gold is headed back to the postseason, securing a Nov. 12 match-up with defending NWAACC champion Clark.
Sean Gaskins, a sophomore defender on the Peninsula team that finished fourth at last year's tourney, said a big key to the Pirates' success is the youth (i.e. freshman) movement.
"Younger players have step-ped up a lot," Gaskins said.
"Everyone has matured."
After five losses in seven games to begin the season, the Pirates began to hit their stride following a 3-1 loss at Bellevue on Sept. 18. Since then, the Pirates have out-scored opponents 30-5 and knocked off or tied three ranked opponents.
"It's confidence, straight confidence," Chapman said. (Early on) the freshmen weren't confident with what they could do with the ball. Now they know they can control the ball."
The Pirates showed they are able to dominate weaker teams, too, as they gave up just one shot on goal earlier in a 3-0 shutout of winless Olympic College in Bremerton on Oct. 29.
Omar Anderson got things going at the 14-minute mark, taking an Ernest Boham through-ball for a score and 1-0 lead, his team-leading seventh goal of the season.
Steve Williams made it 2-0 with 10 minutes remaining in the first half, taking an assist from John Troka and finding the net.
Gaskins added a second-half score off a crossing pass from Anderson.
Peninsula's other keeper, Jase Hall, recorded his fourth shutout of the season as Peninsula outshot the Rangers 15-1.
"We had some great opportunities to put the ball in the back of their net and just couldn't do it," Chapman said. "It was great to hold them to only one shot, our defense played really well. We were able to play all of our players and try players in different positions."
The Pirates visit Skagit Valley (1-14-1) Nov. 5, and then finish the season with a home date against Whatcom (9-3-4) Nov. 8.
Chapman said he plans to give his starters some much-needed rest the last two games while still trying to stay sharp. The final home game versus Whatcom is an interesting one: the Pirates may face Whatcom in the NWAACC playoff's second round, and while both teams figure to rest starters, Peninsula does have a chance to finish the season with an undefeated home record. Game time is 2 p.m.
Then, it's off to Clark, a team that has dropped off significantly from its 17-1-3 mark in 2007. Currently, the Penguins are 7-8-2 in conference play, second in the NWAACC South. With a win there and at Whatcom the next week, the Pirates find a way into their second consecutive NWAACC Final Four.
"We have to go one game at a time," Chapman said. "We have to win two games on the road. Once they see Clark and Whatcom, they'll be ready. There's not much I can say to them at that point."
Gaskins said sophomores plan to talk it up with the freshmen before the postseason kicks in.
"Anything we can do to boost confidence in the younger players," Gaskins said.
Team Conf. Over.
Highline 12-1-3 12-2-3
Bellevue 12-2-2 12-2-2
Peninsula 10-3-3 10-5-3
Tacoma 8-6-3 8-6-3
Olympic 0-15-1 0-15-1