The soccer gods sometimes award the opportunists more than the oppressors, but Orange Coast College benefited from being a little of both to advance past Los Angeles Pierce on Tuesday into the third round of the Southern California Regional playoffs.
The No. 11-seeded Pirates (13-3-5) posted a 23-8 shot advantage and controlled play approximately 85% of the 120 minutes of regulation and overtime. But after 119-plus minutes, the hosts, down, 1-0, had Coach Kevin Smith mentally polishing his hard-luck-loser postgame speech.
But freshman forward Shelle Zito volleyed in a left-footed blast from near the top of the 18-yard box to create a 1-1 tie and force penalty kicks.
In PKs, OCC nailed its first four with authority, then watched Brahmas freshman defender Stefany Soto bounce one off the crossbar to leave the window to victory wide open.
OCC sophomore defender Anmarie Moreno, the Orange Empire Conference Player of the Year, then kissed one off the bottom of the crossbar that bounced backward from just outside the goal line, back over the plane and into the net, before Pierce goalkeeper Jenna Koziol could attempt to bat it clear. A diving Koziol did get a piece of the ball with her left hand, but she merely pushed it against the left inside edge of the net. Officials said it was across the goal line before she touched it, creating a 5-3 PK advantage and ending the match, which will count as a tie.
OCC's reward is a third-round date on Saturday at OEC champion and No. 2-seeded Santiago Canyon (19-1-2), which has outscored opponents, 82-11, this season and has eliminated the Pirates from the playoffs each of the last two years. The time of the match has yet to be determined.
It was the second straight game decided after regulation for OCC, which got past host Ventura with an overtime goal on Saturday.
The two 15-minute overtime periods are played in their entirety, regardless of whether goals are scored.
OCC had roughly 40 seconds left in the second overtime on Tuesday, before Zito made the most of yet another of the Pirates' numerous scoring chances.
"My coach has been telling me to take more shots and take more chances, because he said I haven't been selfish enough," said Zito, whose eight goals rank second on the team. "I looked up for a quick second and I saw where the keeper was. I said, 'You know what? I'm just going to go for it.'
"A ball deflected off their defender, I chested it, then as it was in the air, I volleyed it," Zito said. "It was a lucky shot, but we deserved it. We were fighting so hard."
Fight is what the Pirates do best, Smith said.
"I think justice was done today, absolutely," Smith said after eliminating Pierce (15-3-4) for the second straight season and extending his team's unbeaten streak to eight games. "We were the better team. We created chances and the best chances on goal fell for us. The goal they scored, they caught us on the counter-attack. I would have thought with how many balls we put in the box and how dangerous we looked, we were worth three goals in regulation, probably.
"This is a talented team, but what is getting us to where we are are all those things that have nothing to do with talent," Smith said. "It's the desire, the intensity, that will to win and the willingness to do all the non-glamorous things of the game ... We're not knocking the ball all around and playing the prettiest stuff," Smith said. "But I can honestly say that this team will run through a brick wall if I tell them to and that's pretty cool."
The Pirates kept their cool, and also kept running, after the Brahmas broke the scoreless tie when freshman forward Diana Argueta popped in a pass from freshman forward Michelle Somers (who came in with 22 goals) on a two-on-one breakout in the 98th minute (eight minutes into the first overtime).
Somers fired just high on the best scoring chance for either team in regulation, after fielding a cross from sophomore Jacqueline Hilario in the 54th minute.
OCC, which saw a handful of shots miss wide by less than five feet and several headers misfire both high and wide, had perhaps its best chance in regulation in the 62nd minute. That's when freshman Sandy Jimenez rolled a pass onto the foot of freshman forward Jordan Bradley, who was running ahead of a defender down the right wing. Bradley fired toward the far post, but Koziol dived to her right and got a hand on it to force the belt-level blast wide.
A low drive from the top of the box was scooped up by Koziol (nine saves) in the 88th minute and Koziol came up big yet again when freshman Danielle Dapello settled a cross from freshman Karly Freeman and boomed a shot from 10 yards out that Koziol somehow managed to corral.
Freeman, freshman Juliet Janssen, freshman Emma Erbes and Bradley all buried their PKs, before Moreno, a defender whose long throw-ins also created several scoring chances, took the long walk from midfield to attempt her game-winning PK.
"It was stressful," Moreno said. "I was aiming for the upper left corner [but hit almost the center of the crossbar]."
Said Smith: "[Koziol] picked the right way on every one of our PKs and if the keeper breaks the right way, you really have to hit a good ball to make it. That's pressure stuff right there. You are making a walk 50 yards up to the ball with everyone looking at you. It looks easy, but it's not easy."
OCC won't have it easy against Santiago Canyon, but the Pirates were relishing the chance to avenge their postseason losses of 2012 and 2011.
"We're looking forward to it, which may sound funny, because our last two seasons have ended there in the playoffs," Smith said. "But we're on a high. The girls are playing really, really well and we feel like we could beat anybody. We would love to beat Santiago."
Moreno echoed her coach, despite having been defeated, 3-1, at Santiago Canyon on Oct. 22 and falling to the Hawks, 2-0, at OCC on Sept. 20.
"We tend to see Santiago Canyon a lot," Moreno, who was aided most impressively on the back line by freshman Sarah Guest, in front of freshman keeper Emily Harrier (three saves). "You know what? I know that game is going to be a good game to watch. I think people should come out to watch."