A dream start for Rogue turned into a nightmare finish for the Peninsula College men as the Pirates, defending NWAC champions, were ousted from the NWAC men’s soccer tournament in a 2-1 defeat on Nov. 6.
Peninsula found itself in uncharted waters within the first 10 minutes of the game when Ospreys forward Zach Olson managed to bend in a strange-looking goal from the right-hand edge of the 18-yard box to the far left corner.
“I thought the first goal was a bit unlucky,” Pirates coach Jake Hughes said. “He scuffed it. It came off the outside of his boot and it had a lot of bend on it, and it went up and over. And I thought (goalkeeper Alejandro Lopez) was in a good position. And then you get a bending shot with a lot of movement on it and it comes over, and that hurt us.
“That was actually the first game all year in which we went one goal down.”
That fact is a testament to the quality of this Peninsula squad, which went 15-1-1 on the season.
But that dominance did come with a resulting lack of experience in playing while trailing, chasing goals and playing with the desperate urgency required for a comeback.
“We’ve been brilliant all year, undefeated in league and preseason and this result doesn’t change the fact that we are a good team, because we are a good team,” Hughes said. “No one came close to us this year to turning the screw a little bit in that regard.
“And you go 1-0 down in a playoff game like this, and it’s very difficult to come back.”
Making up a two-goal deficit is even tougher.
In the 25th minute, Rogue played the ball up the middle to Olson, who quickly found a late-breaking Rosendo Juarez-Flores for a clean breakaway goal.
“We got caught kind of on the ball a little bit and they break quickly,” Hughes said. “We trust our players on the ball and we want to play it out of the back. And we just got picked, and they put it in the back of the net.
“Two shots, I mean, two opportunities on frame [to start], and we had several and didn’t get any.”
With Rogue playing defensive-minded soccer and using every opportunity to stall for time via increasingly phantom injuries for the remainder of the contest, the Pirates were hard-pressed to find space in which to operate. Peninsula dominated possession and earned numerous corner kicks due to deflections or free kicks earned as a result of Rogue’s physical brand of soccer.
The Pirates did earn a goal back in some difficult circumstances late in the match.
After Peninsula defender Dylan Pauw was given a red card for arguing with the official in the 67th minute, the Pirates dug deeper with 10 men on the field, and defender Christopher Dominguez pounced on a loose ball resulting from a corner kick to cut the score to 2-1 in the 72nd minute.
Peninsula had a number of chances late, the best coming from Nico Hernandez and Dominguez close to goal, but couldn’t find the net in regulation or in the scant two minutes of stoppage time awarded.
“But that’s the game,” Hughes said. “It’s very difficult to repeat. The last time was 2012-13, and that was Peninsula College.
“I’m really proud of the team and the performance. We usually have that emotional energy and we didn’t quite have it today,” he said.