TUKWILA -- This wasn't how Kyle Vierck, the Columbia Basin College men's soccer coach, wanted the season to end.
Losing a heartbreakingly close 1-0 decision to Peninsula in the NWAACC semifinals is going to sting for quite a while for all 30 CBC players and staff. The loss ended the Hawks' hopes of returning to the championship game for the first time since 1999, when a fiery CBC squad -- one that included Vierck himself -- won the NWAACC title.
But what Vierck might have regretted most as the action died down Saturday night at Starfire Soccer Complex was the thought that his time with this particular group of student athletes was over.
"I look around and see this really amazing group. I'm really sad I couldn't play all 26 guys today," said Vierck, a Pasco graduate who led CBC to its first NWAACC East region title since 1999. "They all had a chance to feed into this.
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"I'm extremely disappointed, but I'm extremely optimistic that we'll come back here again."
Peninsula (12-3-4) will face Highline (13-3-4) -- which beat Shoreline 3-1 in the other semifinal -- for the men's championship at 5:30 p.m. today at Starfire.
The Pirates are making their first-ever appearance in an NWAACC title game.
"We wanted to keep (CBC) playing defense," said Peninsula coach Andrew Chapman. "We wanted to move the ball around and keep it away from them as much as possible."
The teams waged a scoreless battle through the first 68 minutes before NWAACC West MVP Miguel Gonzalez, in the 69th minute, made his way across the middle and dribbled his way down the right wing with a step on his defender. He let fly with a low shot toward the far corner.
Hawks goalkeeper Abel Bautista dove to his right and got a hand on the ball before it slowly trickled away from him and into the net for a 1-0 lead.
In the game's final minutes, the Kamiakain product made a spectacular one-handed save on a nearly identical shot.
"I feel like I could have had it. The second one was a lot tougher," said Bautista, a team captain who shared a hug with his coach following the loss. "We played exactly the way (Vierck) wanted us to."
Almost as significant as the shot that went in were the ones that didn't.
The Pirates missed several golden opportunities right in front of the net, including one off a perfect crossing pass from Patrick Wolverton that inexplicably skipped right by forward Tyler Hindmarch in the 54th minute. Only minutes before, Gonzalez had missed a similar chance in front of the net.
"Our defense contested every shot," Bautista said. "A nick here, a deflection there."
The Hawks, who finished the season at 12-4-4, weren't without their chances either.
Two in particular stuck out. The first came in the 24th minute, when defender Merced Rodriguez rang a long sinking liner off the crossbar. The rebound came right out to forward Raul Farias, who was rushing in from the top of the box. Farias headed the ball toward the top right corner before Pirates' keeper Jared Wilson snatched it in mid-flight. Wilson's body came down behind the goal line, but the assistant referee working the sideline ruled that Wilson kept the ball in play.
CBC midfielder Gavin Richter gave the Hawks perhaps their best opportunity with a free kick from just outside Peninsula's 18-yard box in the 66th minute. Richter hit the shot square, with a little bit of english, toward the right post, but watched it miss by mere inches as it glanced off the right post.
"They didn't set a very good wall, and I thought it was actually going in. I just didn't get enough whiskey on it," said Richter, another Kamiakin grad. "A long season comes to an end. But it's the journey that makes you happy. Not the destination."
Scoring -- 1, P, Miguez Gonzalez, 69:00.
Shots -- P 11, CBC 7.
Saves -- P, Jared Wilson 3. CBC Abel Bautista 5.