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TUKWILA — It's a cruel reality of soccer — one moment can define a game or even a season.
The Clark College men's soccer team is trying to take a broader view after a late goal sunk its hopes of an NWAACC championship Sunday.
The Penguins hung with Peninsula, a Port Angeles school that was undefeated entering the title game at Starfire Complex.
The Pirates triumphed 1-0 on a goal by tournament MVP Alex Martinez, earning their third title in four years.
"I'm really proud of their accomplishments this year," Clark coach Biniam Afenegus said. "This was a very good team that has dominated everybody. We're the only ones that have kept them scoreless into stoppage time."
It's unclear at what minute the goal actually occurred. The scoreboard read the 84th minute, but the clock was running slow. It read 88 minutes when the final whistle blew. Afenegus said a game official told him the goal was in stoppage time.
When the final whistle blew, it brought an end to a roller-coaster playoff odyssey that saw Clark win a quarterfinal in penalty kicks and a semifinal in overtime.
Sunday's match had all the tension you'd expect between opponents that were the NWAACC's two best in goals scored and goals allowed.
Each team had its share of chances in a match that was physical yet free-flowing. But the defining moment came when the ball fell to Martinez at the top of the penalty box.
The league's leading scorer hit a low shot that sent Clark goalkeeper Jonathan Morales diving to his left. He got a hand on the ball, but not enough to keep it from trickling into the net.
"I knew someone was going to get the goal," said co-captain and Hockinson grad Langdon Roscoe. "In the end it comes down to one moment."
That moment clouded what was otherwise a stellar game for Morales, who had 10 saves. He made a handful of difficult saves, punched away dangerous crosses and exerted control of his penalty box.
Morales had an assist in the 23rd minute from midfielder Enrique Esparza, who cleared a Peninsula header off the goal line.
As the game wore on, Clark found its footing and began controlling more of the possession, showing a resiliency that became a hallmark of this team in the playoffs.
"I hope as a sophomore I helped lay a good foundation," Roscoe said. "Wherever I go now I'll take this loss and hopefully learn from it so I can never have this feeling again."
Afenegus hopes his players remember the earlier playoff triumphs and going toe-to-toe with a soccer power among Northwest community colleges.
"I'm excited because we have a young starting group," Afenegus said. "We should be back here next year."