Martinez, Peninsula strike late to take 2012 men’s title

by John William Howard
TUKWILA, Wash. – Rain poured and wind whipped as the Peninsula and Walla Walla men battled for 90 minutes, with the Pirates coming out on top with a late goal to claim the 2012 NWAACC Soccer Championship, their second in three seasons.

The first half featured chances for both squads. Time and again, the defense stood up to the task, intercepting a feed at the last second, or heading away a corner back for a counterattack. In the 32nd minute, Walla Walla came close, with Johnathan Rodriguez’ free kick swinging into a scrum just in front of the Peninsula goal. The ball eventually connected with a Warrior head, but went over the crossbar for a goal kick.

A few minutes later, Walla Walla keeper Daniel Romero gave WWCC a scare when he fumbled a hard strike from Peninsula’s Aaron Jeffery. Romero took the initial impact, but dropped the ball on the turf feet from the goal line before diving back on it and clearing. That would be one of several opportunities for Peninsula as the first half waned. Pirate forward Henrique Noujeimi momentarily froze Romero on the ground, but sent a bullet barely over the crossbar. Minutes later, Romero saved a shot by Peninsula’s Alex Martinez, and the whistle sounded to end the first half.

The second period began with a foray by Walla Walla into Peninsula’s defensive third, but as time wore on, the Pirates picked up the intensity of their attack, pressing Walla Walla further into their own half. In the 64th minute, Daniel Gonzalez sent a shot bending toward the Warrior net, forcing Romero to leap and bat the ball out for a corner. On the resulting kick, Walla Walla surrendered yet another corner kick before finally clearing.

Just four minutes later, the Warriors again found themselves scrambling on defense. Peninsula fed the ball into the box and sent it up toward the crossbar. Romero punched it away, but it fell to a Pirate boot and sped back toward Romero’s net. At the last second, the Walla Walla defense made perhaps the play of the game, a save just in front of the goal line by an outstretched foot to send the ball back on the attack for the Warriors.

Peninsula finally climbed ahead 20 minutes later. Down to the 88th minute and facing overtime, Martinez took a feed across the 18 yard box. Still on the run, Martinez turned and fired, sending the ball into the net for the first goal of the night.

It was at that point that the emotions boiled over for both teams. One side jubilant and the other frustrated, both squads were at the end of a long road, and words were exchanged, bringing the match to a standstill. After several minutes and a red card for Peninsula’s Daniel Gonzalez, play finally restarted. By that point, it was too late. Walla Walla had a few faint chances, but Peninsula played their possessions well and after a few minutes of rough play, the head referee signaled the end of the match, and Peninsula stormed the field.

With the Peninsula women taking the 2012 title a few hours earlier, this marks the first time in 13 years that the same school has taken both soccer championships. Back in 1999 Columbia Basin beat out Spokane in both the men’s and women’s finals.