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Men's soccer: MVP Martinez serves up a win
How sweep it is.
Two hours after watching their classmates use penalty kicks take to home the first women's soccer championship in school history, it looked as if Peninsula's men were headed down that same road.
And then — at least, to Pirate fans — something magical happened. It came in the form of Alex Martinez.
With about three minutes remaining in regulation, the 6-foot midfielder from Reno took a Daniel Gonzalez pass inside the penalty box, dropped a couple of fakes on Walla Walla defenders and pushed the ball past Warrior keeper Daniel Romero for the score.
The 1-0 lead held up despite a late strike from Walla Walla and Peninsula had its second NWAACC title in school history.
"This one's a great one," Peninsula coach Andrew Chapman said. "The last time (Peninsula College won the conference title in 2010) it could have gone either way. This time, they were the better team. They deserved it."
Martinez had a big hand — actually, a big head and big foot — in getting the team to the final. His header in the 32nd minute Saturday night proved to be the game-winner as Peninsula topped Edmonds 2-0. Martinez chipped a pass to Jake Forrester for the second score.
On Sunday, Walla Walla's stingy defense looked up to the task, holding the NWAACC's most potent offense scoreless for the better part of 88 minutes.
"We knew that Walla Walla was trying to pack (the defense) in and play for overtime or penalty kicks," Chapman said.
At halftime, the Pirates were looking for a way to break through.
"We were talking about, we have one half left in the season," Martinez said. "We had to take it to them. We just kept working."
In the second half, Chapman had words for Martinez, a 19-goal scorer in the regular season.
"I said, 'Hey, go be great.' He made me look good," Chapman said.
Martinez took Gonzalez's pass and needled through three defenders before ripping his shot past Romero.
"It was in the moment," Martinez said. "This feels … ridiculously awesome."
The final moments weren't without some drama, as Gonzalez tangled with Walla Walla's Conner Cravens and both drew red card ejections.
But P.C. keeper Guilherme Avelar and the Pirate defense came up big, allowing only a desperate outside shot from Walla Walla in the waning moments.
Then, it was all about the celebrations.
"These guys are a masterpiece," said sophomore Parker Vacura, who was a part of the Peninsula's 2010 championship.
"The second one is pretty good. It was a hard (match) — they were coming at us in the middle."
Vacura, an Alaskan native, was impressed with how it ended.
"It was a great team effort, but that (Martinez's score) was a great individual play."
Martinez was named the tourney MVP.
According to the NWAACC, the dual school soccer championships mark the first single-school sweep since 1999, when Columbia Basin beat Spokane in both title games.
Reach Michael Dashiell at firstname.lastname@example.org.