In a showdown between one of the conference’s top defensive teams and, well, simply one of the best teams in the nation, the showdown was a classic — for 45 minutes.
Soon after halftime, however, the No. 1-ranked Peninsula women loomed large over the Lane Titans with three scores to secure their second consecutive trip to the NWAACC Final Four.
Briana Afoa broke open the scoreless affair with a nifty, 25-foot lefty looper past Lane keeper Samantha Schoene a few seconds after the second-half opening whistle.
Annie Armstrong made it 2-0 with a put-back on a corner kick at the 60-minute mark and Kendra Miner sealed the playoff quarterfinal victory with a goal off a Lane turnover at 76 minutes.
Sydney Bullington had two assists while Deidra Woodward had the third.
“I told (the team) at halftime that the goals would come,” Peninsula coach Kanyon Anderson said. “Briana’s goal — what a great individual goal. There are not a lot of girls in the conference who could make that (score).”
The Pirates (22-1-0) take on the Everett Trojans at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 17, at the Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila. With a win, the Pirates advance to the NWAACC championship game, taking on the winner of Saturday‘s other semifinal match between Clackamas and Spokane.
“I think we expected to win,” Anderson said. “There’d be a big, big disappointment if we didn’t make the Final Four.”
While P.C. keeper Denae Brooks gets credit for the shutout — Peninsula’s 14th of the season — it was Peninsula’s defense and midfield that starred, choking off dozens of Lane attacks and setting up deep runs by Afoa, Armstrong and others.
“The midfielders did fantastic,” Anderson said, crediting Woodward, Armstrong, Sydney Bullington and Emilia Stefanko for dominating the middle.
“Our midfielders win it (the ball) a lot,” Aubrey Briscoe said.
In the first half, Peninsula saw a pair of chances to break the game open fall short; Briscoe had a shot ring off the crossbar at the 26-minute mark, Armstrong had a near-miss at 35 minutes and Bullington saw a free kick clear the goalpost just before halftime.
Armstrong said the Pirates were a touch nervous in the first half and that the team’s passes were off, but refocusing on attacking Lane’s side of the field helped.
So does having a team replete with playmakers, one good enough to earn a No. 11 ranking in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America’s Junior College Division I Top 20 poll.
“Everybody holds their own on this team,” Armstrong said.
Peninsula looks forward to advancing to their second trip to the Final Four and possibly another trip to the championship game. But first they’ll have to make it past Everett, the North Division champs, in the semifinal next Saturday. Everett (13-4-3) earned a 1-0 victory at home against defending NWAACC champ Walla Walla on Saturday. Though it somewhat spoils a rematch of the 2011 NWAACC title game — Walla Walla beat Peninsula 1-0 for the crown — Anderson said his Pirates would be happy to play either team.
“They (Everett and Walla Walla) are both competitive teams — we’re really excited about that,” he said.
It’s a bit of déjà vu for the Pirates, who will face Everett at the Starfire Sports Complex for the second time this season. P.C. topped Everett 3-1 in a nonconference matchup on Aug. 29, getting scores from Armstrong, Miner and Stefanko.
Riley Henderson leads Everett with 12 goals while Lisa Echert boasts an NWAACC-best 16 assists.
“Our ultimate goal is to win the NWAACC,” Briscoe said.
Anderson, Peninsula’s head coach, was named West Division Coach of the Year. In his third year as the women’s head coach, Anderson earned the honor in his sophomore season as well.
Afoa was named the West Region MVP. She broke Peninsula’s single season scoring record with 21 goals thus far and currently ranks second in the NWAACC in scoring. Afoa follows Jackie Rodgers as the second straight year a Pirate was named the West MVP.
Also earning recognition as West Division All-Stars from the women’s team are Jordan Dinneen, a sophomore midfielder from Anchorage, Alaska; Woodward, a sophomore midfielder from Olympia; Miner, a sophomore mid from Wasilla, Alaska; and Briscoe, a sophomore defender from Juneau, Alaska.
ReachMichael Dashiell at email@example.com.