As good as last year’s Peninsula men’s soccer squad was, this year’s team might be even better.
The Pirates defended their undefeated record No.1 ranking Saturday, knocking off No. 2-ranked Highline 3-1 in a rematch of last season’s NWAACC championship game.
Miguel Gonzalez scored two goals and had an assist as P.C. rebounded from an early deficit to topple the visiting Thunderbirds.
“As promised, this game was a hard-fought battle between two very tough teams,” Peninsula coach Andrew Chapman said.
Highline’s Darwin Jones opened the scoring at the six-minute mark off a Peninsula passing error, slipping it past Pirate keeper Jared Wilson.
P.C. bounced back quickly, as Dean Gaynor found Gonzalez for a score three minutes later. Tyrone Warren assisted Gonzalez a minute later and Peninsula held a 2-1 lead for the remaining 35 minutes of the first half.
Gonzalez now has 24 goals to lead the NWAACC.
Peninsula got some insurance when Gonzalez slipped a pass to Sean Prizeman, who ripped the net for the game’s final score.
Wilson racked up 10 saves as the teams tied in shots on goal, 13-13.
He had plenty of help, as teammate Matt Stefanko made a key play when Wilson was caught away from the net. Stefanko slid in behind him to earn a save of his own on a Highline shot from point-blank range.
Also playing very well defensively for Peninsula were Dustin Walsh, Jacob Campbell and Jeff Mullen.
Emotions ran high near halftime as both teams received red card ejections, going to Peninsula’s Anthony Aguilar and Highline’s Alberto Brand.
“This was a very good game for us,” Chapman said. “We hadn’t really played a team this talented this year and our guys were ready for it. We moved the ball well and we fought hard for the win.”
Last year, Highline topped Peninsula twice (both 1-0 contests) before meeting in the championship contest, where the teams battled to a scoreless tie before P.C. won the crown via penalty kicks.
The victory comes on the heels of another hard-fought Peninsula win, a 2-0 victory against Tacoma on Oct. 5.
With the contest knotted at 0-0 after 45 minutes of play, Gonzalez broke through early in the second half by scoring on his own rebound.
Gonzalez got another score off a feed from Dean Gaynor, beating Tacoma’s resolute keeper Alex Vogt.
Wilson and the defense did the rest, shutting out the Titans for P.C.’s seventh whitewashing of the season.
Wilson, the 2010 NWAACC championship game MVP, tallied 12 saves. It was his 14th shutout of his career, a school record.
Peninsula outshot Tacoma 27-16.