Peninsula College scored early and defended well late in a 2-0 men’s soccer shutout of Skagit Valley that effectively served as postseason preparation for the unbeaten Pirates (10-0-0, 13-0-0).
“I thought we were good, that we did enough (to win),” coach Jake Hughes said. “It was a difficult game because Skagit is really well coached and well organized. They play a similar formation to us, so it’s difficult to find any sort of tactical advantage.”
Peninsula is battling with Whatcom (10-1-0, 12-1-0) for the NWAC North Region title, a first-round bye in the playoffs and the right to host a playoff quarterfinal at Wally Sigmar Field on Nov. 6, so the Pirates’ final regular-season games are taking on a playoff quality.
“It definitely felt like that tonight. It felt a little nervy at times, so in terms of playoff preparation, this was great,” Hughes said.
In the fourth minute of the contest, Jonathan DeMotta linked up with striker Nico Hernandez, sending a right-to-left cross toward the far goalpost that Hernandez struck cleanly to the right of the beaten Cardinals goalkeeper for a 1-0 lead.
Hernandez’s extra effort led to the second Peninsula goal in the 18th minute. Hernandez’s initial shot attempt ricocheted off a Skagit defender, but he tracked the deflection down near the end line, where he was fouled and earned a penalty kick.
Hernandez converted to the keeper’s right for a 2-0 advantage.
“What we spoke about today was really about winning the individual battles because we play the same shape, same structure, so you have to be better than the person you are playing against,” Hughes said.
“And in that regard, I felt we did well.”
Peninsula had opportunities to add to the lead after halftime, with Hide Sakamoto sending a shot over the bar after a two-on-one break with Hernandez.
A Hernandez pass to Don Vaios ended up with Vaios bouncing a shot off the right post in the 77th minute.
“I thought we could have put more in the back of the net,” Hughes said. “(Skagit) made a couple of good saves and a couple of saves they would probably be able to make anyway.”
Skagit Valley never went away in the second half, building up its attack and playing with urgency as the clocked ticked down, but the Pirates’ defense held firm.
“They are fighters. (Skagit) are a good team and will fight to the end, so that’s what we talked about — fighting to the end,” Hughes said.
“It’s definitely a resilient bunch that likes to defend. And that’s what it takes to win, working both sides of the ball.”
Peninsula visits Edmonds on Saturday.