Brian Choate called it “probably the best moment of my life.” Better ones may follow for the Central Valley senior, but this will do just fine for now.
Deep into overtime Saturday afternoon, CV and visiting Pasco seemed headed toward a penalty-kick shootout that would send the winner to the State 4A soccer semifinals. Though down a man, Pasco was mounting another counterattack when midfielder Noah Whitman made a sliding tackle, won the ball and passed it upfield.
Seconds later, Choate drilled a 25-yard shot that gave the unbeaten Bears a 1-0 win and a spot in next week’s final four. As the Pasco players slumped as one to the grass, the Bears ran deliriously toward Choate.
Standing at the other end of the field, CV goalkeeper Andrew Enzler admits he “just lost it and started running.”
“I was just living in the moment,” Enzler said.
A few minutes later, coach Andres Monrroy restored some order and pumped up his players even further as they planned for Friday’s 8 p.m. semifinal game against Wenatchee at Sparks Stadium in Puyallup.
“It’s too bad this couldn’t have been a semifinal or a championship game,” said Monrroy, who will return to the semifinals, with the boys squad, for the first time since 2012. Monrroy’s girls squad won their second straight state title in November.
Saturday’s golden moment came out of nowhere. Four minutes into overtime, the Bulldogs (16-3) were mounting a promising counterattack when Whitman pounced on a loose dribble. As he came up with the ball in the Bears’ half of the field, “I looked up and I saw Brian screaming ‘Noah, Noah,’ ” Whitman said.
Downfield, Choate had brushed past one defender, controlled Whitman’s long pass and slowed for an instant.
“Then I felt a guy on me, so I took a big touch and went for it,” Choate said. Choate’s knuckler seemed to freeze Pasco keeper Ryan Dawson for an instant as it darted inside the post for the winner.
Choate’s screamer gave way to more screams from players and hundreds of fans, many of whom figure to follow the 18-0 Bears to the final four.
Saturday’s match played out far differently than CV’s 4-3 regional win at Pasco on May 11.
Pasco was at its best on the counter, led by the deft dribbling of Emilio Rodriguez. The Bulldogs’ best chance came on a hard shot from Rodriguez that forced a diving save by Enzler in the 22nd minute.
Pasco had the momentum early in the second half, getting its best chance in the 61st minute after a steal by Rodriguez. His shot eluded Enzler, but CV defender Mark McClain was in the right spot to clear the ball off the line.
Six minutes later, Pasco was down to 10 players after Rodriguez picked up his second yellow card.
Pasco’s defense withstood every CV attack in the last 12 minutes of regulation, setting up the overtime heroics.
“I kept telling the boys that we weren’t going to a shootout,” Monrroy said. “We adjusted and we played intense for 80 minutes.
“I told (Pasco) coach (Matt) Potter that would have been an ideal championship game, too bad it’s a quarterfinal.”
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