The demons had lived a full year, so 90 minutes was hardly long enough to slay them.
The Clark College men’s soccer team is headed to the NWAACC final four after beating Spokane in a second-round playoff match Saturday.
After a scoreless 90 minutes of regulation and 20 minutes of overtime, Clark prevailed 5-4 on penalty kicks.
The Penguins had Saturday circled since last year. It was at that same stage a heavily favored Clark team had its title hopes ended by Highline.
Worries of deja-vu deepened the longer Saturday’s game at Clark stayed scoreless.
But when Bryanth Garcia-Junco calmly drove the final penalty kick into the goal, it unleashed a celebration fueled by a year of frustration and an afternoon’s worth of anxiety.
“Last year’s loss was really deep on me,” Garcia-Junco said. “It hits you. But we have a good group of kids here that want it as bad as I do. We’re going to keep working hard and hopefully bring the championship here.”
Clark now has a rematch against Highline in the semifinals Nov. 16 at Starfire Complex in Tukwila.
As NWAACC South Division champions with a 12-1-0 record, Clark had a bye before facing Spokane, the No. 2 finisher in the South. But Spokane’s defense allowed few chances for a Penguins team whose 70 goals was second most in the NWAACC.
Instead of the forwards, Clark’s defenders were the stars on Saturday. The back line calmly cleared Spokane’s crosses though there were some nervous moments, none bigger than when central defender Langdon Roscoe threw his body in front of a point-blank shot in the 52nd minute.
“All that’s going through my mind is to keep everything in front of me,” said Roscoe, a co-captain and Hockinson grad. “Tackle hard and keep my teammates by my side. With this group I can trust the guys next to me. That helps a lot.”
As fatigue set in, neither team created much danger in either 10-minute overtime period. The Penguins’ best chance came in 101st minute, when Richard Stewart’s shot was parried over the crossbar by Spokane goalkeeper Curtis Hill.
The only miss of the penalty shootout came from Spokane’s second shooter, who lifted the ball well over the crossbar.
The stakes rising with each shot, Clark’s penalty takers never faltered.
“I love pressure,” Garcia-Junco said. “As a captain, you have to step up and take a shot to win it for the team.”