Penalty kicks carry Puyallup over Davis, and a berth in state 4A title match Saturday

The ball was struck low and hard off the foot of Davis defender Antonio Garcia, headed for the left side of the net. It never got close to going in.

Instead, the torso of Puyallup goal-keeper Alexis Cruz-Hernandez flashed along the line. The keeper’s arms in front of him to solidly block the third of five Pirate shootout penalty kicks.

It turned out to be the only save of the shootout that decided the second 4A state semifinal at Sparks Stadium on Friday night. The Vikings made all five of their attempts to advance to the championship game with a 4-3 victory.

And Cruz-Hernandez knew he had the game-changing save before it happened.

“About halfway,” Cruz-Hernandez said. “That puts so much more pressure on them. I just guessed right.”

Davis made its final two chances, which put the final pressure on Viking senior defender Jacob Goter on Puyallup’s fifth try. A miss and the shootout would go to sudden death moving forward. But Goter went slightly right with his shot to beat Davis keeper Jesus Hernandez and secure the win.

Puyallup will play Skyline at 6:15 p.m. on Saturday. Davis plays Tahoma for third place at 12:15 p.m.

The Spartans earned their spot by denying the No. 2 Bears their chance to win a first state title since 1992 with a 3-1 victory. Skyline became the first team this season to score more than two goals against the Bears, who came into the first semifinal of the day at 18-1-1 and had outscored its opponents 50-10.

The shootout victory was Puyallup’s third of the post-season.

“Third in a row,” Puyallup coach Matt White said. “The SPSL is funny with the two divisions. If you play a crossover game and you are tied at the end of regulation, you do a shootout. So we’re practicing it from Week 2.”

A year ago, the Vikings lost early in the state tourney – in a shootout. On Friday, they required another one in this state tournament after a back-and-forth regulation that featured three lead changes and finally three ties when the Vikings tied it for the third time in the 63rd minute.

Dean Williams executed a long throw-in from the left sideline that found the head of freshman midfielder Coleman Farmer and went low between several Pirate defenders and Puyallup attackers to find the net.

The teams played two five-minute, golden goal overtime periods with no scores before finally going to the shootout.

The Tahoma Bears weren’t as lucky in the first semifinal.

Tahoma did tie the game in the 19th minute, on a try that looked innocent enough. With the ball near midfield, Tahoma defenseman Dane Tschimperle stood ready to take the free kick after a Skyline foul in the first of the 4A state boys soccer semifinals.

Trailing by that goal after an early-game penalty in the box gave the Spartans a penalty kick that Brayden Ferreira blasted by Tahoma goalie Cohen Storch, Tschimperle sailed the free kick over everyone and toward the goal. Skyline keeper Arnav Murudkar waited for it on his goal line.

The ball stayed above the senior goalie’s head but came down toward his gloved hands ready to make the catch and save. And then, he didn’t. Instead, the ball bounced off his palms and into the net for the game-tying tally in the 19th minute to ignite the Bears.

No. 2 Tahoma, the highest remaining seed in the 4A Final Four, couldn’t capitalize on the momentum, however. Three minutes before halftime, Ferreira struck again with a quick turn and a goal in the box to take a 2-1 lead at the half.

Then when Dylan Hernandez scored for Skyline just two minutes into the second half, Tahoma couldn’t climb out of the hole.

“We’ll take this loss as a coaching error,” Tahoma coach Rick Maloy said. “Making changes when I did, I take that second goal. Even after that, the boys kept working hard. They were excited at halftime. They came out ready to play, but so did Skyline. They’re a good team. They earned it.”