The best season in school history for the Southwestern Oregon Community College men’s soccer team came to an end Saturday when the Lakers fell to visiting Tacoma in an NWAC quarterfinal match that went to penalty kicks.
The Lakers and Tacoma were tied 2-all through regulation and two overtimes, setting up the shootout, which Tacoma won 4-1.
“It’s unfortunate to go out like that, especially after how hard we played the entire match,” SWOCC coach Brad Williams said. “It was a good game. It’s always disappointing to lose on penalty kicks.”
Tacoma got on the scoreboard early with a goal in the ninth minute by Bubacar Touray, but the Lakers answered when Alieu Diaw scored with an assist from Joe Montero in the 25th minute. It was Diaw’s first goal of the season.
Montero scored in the 64th minute to put SWOCC up, with Dylan Krufal assisting. But Tacoma got the equalizer by Masa Fukushima on a penalty kick in the 85th minute to force overtime.
After neither team scored in the two 10-minute overtime periods, they went on to penalty kicks, something the Lakers had been preparing for, Williams said.
“We’ve been doing penalties since probably one of the first days,” he said. “That’s something that toward this time of year, it’s always a factor.
“In training, our guys were nailing them. Then on the day (it was most important), we missed three.”
Montero, who converted all of his penalty kicks during the season, had his shot saved by Tacoma’s goalie and Kodai Kobayashi missed the net entirely. Diaw made his kick, but when Tacoma’s keeper stopped the attempt by Nate Sheley, the match was over.
The finish was a disappointing end to a great year.
The Lakers won the South Region for the first time and earned a chance to host Saturday’s match for a trip to the NWAC final four. SWOCC finished the year 10-1-2.
“It’s a big achievement on the field,” Williams said. “We’re happy to get our Southern Region title, and to take that outright was a big statement for the program. I’m just really excited about it going forward and where we can go with it next year.”
The Lakers return a strong group, including Montero, while Williams expects eight of the sophomores to go on to play for four-year schools.
And he already has several strong recruits committed to join the program next fall.
“They are going to add to the group tremendously,” he said. “If the guys who are returning continue to develop over the spring, we are going to have a better team next year than we had this year. It’s definitely something to look forward to.”
Williams will now give his players a couple of months to make sure they are caught up on their schooling and rest their bodies before starting spring training in January.
Tacoma faces Pierce in the semifinals on Friday while Highline meets Whatcom in the other semifinal. Highline and Tacoma tied for first in the West Region with matching 10-1-1 league records while Pierce was third in the same region. Whatcom won the East Region.
The Lakers lost both their matches on the road over the weekend, including a five-set loss to Lane in Eugene on Friday.
The Titans edged the Lakers 28-30, 25-19, 25-19, 16-25, 15-8. Andria Santoyo had 15 kills and Brooke Fisher 14 for the Lakers in the loss. Sydney Colledge had 38 assists and Alexus Paglinawan 34 digs.
Linn-Benton swept the Lakers 25-19, 25-16, 25-17 on Saturday. Baley VanWormer had a team-best seven kills in the loss.
The Lakers are 2-11 in league play. Linn-Benton is 12-1 and Lane is 9-4, with one of the losses coming to SWOCC.
The Lakers finish the season at home against Umpqua on Wednesday.