Practice didn’t make them perfect, but the Central Valley boys soccer team was close enough when it mattered most Tuesday night.
After playing visiting Emerald Ridge to a 3-3 tie through regulation and two overtimes, the Bears dominated the penalty-kick shootout in a first-round State 4A playoff match.
“We’ve been practicing our penalty kicks, and we knew that if we went to a shootout, we were confident that we would win it,” CV coach Andres Monrroy said after a dramatic 4-3 win that sets up a home match Saturday.
If the Bears (12-3) win that one – at 1 p.m. against Davis of Yakima – they’ll play the following week in the semifinals. Coincidentally, that will be held in Puyallup, where the Emerald Ridge bus headed after Tuesday’s match.
After giving up a tying goal in the final seconds of regulation play, the Bears dominated the overtimes yet didn’t gain anything tangible – except confidence.
“After they scored at the end of regulation, we were very frustrated,” senior midfielder Alex Renz said. “But after they blew the whistle after the second overtime, we knew we had to get it done.”
With Emerald Ridge shooting first, both sides missed their first penalty kicks. Emerald Ridge made its second shot to take a brief lead, but Chris Stokesbary scored to tie the shootout at 1-1.
Then CV goalkeeper Alex Yoseph stepped up and saved a low shot to his right, and Justin Alcala blasted a shot in the left corner to make it 2-1 for CV.
“You have to pick a side,” Yoseph said. “And you just hope you guess the right way.”
Which he did again on Emerald Ridge’s fourth shot, another low shot to the right that Yoseph blocked with his legs.
“You dive low, because the chances are they’re going (to shoot) low,” Yoseph said.
That gave Renz, the Bears’ fourth shooter, a chance to clinch it, and Renz did just that, putting the winner into the right side of the net to set off a celebration by the Bears and several hundred fans.
“This is crazy,” Renz said. “We thought winning last weekend (2-1 over Chiawana in the regionals) and then going to prom was great, but this is even better.”
“We’ve known each other since kindergarten,” Yoseph said. “So that made it all the better.”
The Bears fell behind in the 15th minute after a long throw into the goalmouth by Adam Fernando, one of many that confronted Yoseph all evening.
“We knew that was a strength of theirs,” Monrroy said. “But knowing about it and playing it are two different things.”
CV equalized on an own goal just before halftime, then took its first lead on a header by Stokesbary off a perfect cross from Alcala only five minutes after intermission.
The Bears’ first lead lasted all of two minutes, as the Jaguars’ Mac Clarke pounced on a ball mishandled by Joseph to tie the match at 2-2.
Central Valley regained the lead five minutes later on a great individual effort by Renz, who took a cross from Alcala at the top of the box – then lost the ball and fell.
“I was waiting for them to come out and poke it out,” Renz, “but they were too slow.”
With the goal 10 yards to his back, Renz regained possession, dribbled left, faked a run inside, then went back outside and put a sharp-angled ball into the left side of the net.
CV had several late chances to take a two-goal lead, the best on a scramble in the 62nd minute that ended with the ball hitting the crossbar.
But in the waning moments of the match, Emerald Ridge pushed everyone forward, and the Jaguars’ Luke Logan headed home a cross to force overtime.
And bring out the best in the Bears.