The Peninsula College women’s soccer team collected its fifth NWAC championship at the Starfire Soccer Complex on Nov. 14, beating Clark College 1-0 in the title game.
But it didn’t come without a lot of sacrifice. And a lot of heartbreak.
This team had 13 “Super Sophs,” basically third-year players who were given an extra year of eligibility because of the near-total loss of last year’s season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
These are all players who could have easily moved on to four-year programs. But, after a heartbreaking 1-0 double overtime loss to Highline in the 2019 NWAC championship, a game that players and coach Kanyon Anderson still hate to talk about to this day, over a dozen players decided to stick around an extra year.
Anderson said that loss two years ago still fuels this year’s team.
“Had we not lost that game, probably most of our players would have moved on,” Anderson said. “We’ll never have a team like this ever again. This is not a normal team. It will stand alone for a long, long time.”
“When we lost in 2019, that really gave us the team motivation to put the extra work in season,” said defender Mackenzie Corkill.
Anderson said Grace Johnson had an especially poignant story. The Chimacum High School graduate was offered a full-ride scholarship, including housing, at Humboldt State University in Northern California last year. She declined because of that 2019 loss. She wanted to come back and win a championship at Peninsula College.
In her final year at Peninsula, Johnson led the Pirates in goals with nine, good for fourth in the NWAC. She scored the team’s go-ahead goal in the 89th minute in the Friday semifinal against Columbia Basin, then had an assist in the 83rd minute on the Pirates’ go-ahead goal in the finals.
“She was pretty emotional,” Anderson said.
“Grace would have been shattered, I think,” if the Pirates hadn’t won the title, said defender Kascia Muscutt.
Anderson said no other team in the NWAC had 13 super sophomores. He thinks all the other teams in the NWAC didn’t have that many third-year players combined.
“Anything less than a championship would have been a failure,” Anderson said.
It was the fifth women’s NWAC championship for Anderson. The Pirates also won in 2018, 2016, 2013 and 2012.
Fittingly, the Peninsula College women won another NWAC soccer championship on a shutout.
And fittingly, it was a Clarke that beat Clark.
Locked in a tough, defensive scoreless battle in the NWAC championship game against Clark College out of Vancouver, the Pirates appeared headed for overtime when Miya Clarke got a hold of a loose ball on a throw-in and booted it in for a goal in the 83rd minute. The throw-in from Muscutt went through the Pirates’ Millie Long who was battling for position with a Clark defender.
The ball found Johnson, who tapped the ball with the heel of her foot behind her. Clarke swooped in uncovered from 25 yards out to drive a powerful shot into the net. Clarke only scored one goal all season, but she saved it for when it was most needed.
“We had three or four players in the area. You put it the ball into the box, good things are bound to happen,” Muscutt said.
Keeper Musuai Isaia wasn’t surprised that it was Clarke who scored the winning goal.
“I told her early in the season if your only goal of the season is in the championship game, that will be fine,” Isaia said.
That was the only scoring that the Pirates needed as they held on for another seven minutes, plus three minutes of stoppage time to beat Clark 1-0.
The Penguins had chances, with two scary free kicks and two corner kicks in the final 10 minutes of play, but never seriously threatened.
The closest the Penguins came in the final minutes was when Isaia had a hold of the ball, but was pushed across the goal line by a Clark player. The refs called a foul on Clark and whether or not the ball over crossed the goal line didn’t matter.
“We’ve had harder games. Really, it comes down to trust” down the stretch, said defender Tommylia Dunbar said.
“We weren’t looking at the clock at all. We just know what we had to do,” in those final 10 minutes, Isaia said.
The Peninsula women didn’t lose a single game all year, going 18-0-2 on the season (including three forfeits over Everett), putting together one of the most remarkable defensive seasons in the history of both the Peninsula program and the entire NWAC.
The Pirates have had seasons in which they scored a lot more goals. They actually had a pair of 0-0 ties, which all the players agree felt like losses. But, their goals-against-average was phenomenal.
The Pirates allowed 0.15 goals per game. They had 14 shutouts in 20 games, allowed just one goal in three postseason games, at one point had 10 straight games without allowing a goal, which included a scoreless streak of a staggering 951 minutes, not counting stoppage time. The Pirates allowed just three goals all season. Anderson hated talking about the scoreless streak during the season, but doesn’t mind now.
Anderson said the three goals allowed is a new NWAC record.
“When it comes down to it, defense wins championships,” Dunbar said. “Coach told us as long as the other team doesn’t score, you don’t lose.”