The penalty shot rocketed off Danny Hernandez's foot and sailed over the head of Johnny Chavez, hitting the back of the net — the fifth consecutive time an Arizona Western player beat the backup Phoenix College goalie.
Mere seconds later, he was swarmed by teammates and fans as they celebrated the No. 1 Matadors clinching a 2-1 win in the NJCAA Region I semifinals on penalty kicks Wednesday at the AWC soccer field.
The win allows the Matadors to host the regional finals at 6 p.m. Saturday against Pima, a team they've already beaten twice this year.
“Man, I can't express the words,” Hernandez said. “I'm coming from San Francisco, and I came here to win the championship. That's what we're shooting for. I can't express the feeling — butterflies and everything.
“I'm shooting 110 percent. I'm making this goal and we're taking this victory,” he said. “I was just going to shoot it as hard as I can. I knew it was a backup goalie, and I was just thinking put it in the back of the net and let's celebrate.”
The Matadors trailed after scoring in the 82nd minute, but Phoenix, entering the playoffs as the fifth seed, tied the game on a controversial play with six seconds left.
With time ticking off the clock, Arizona Western was called for a foul with seven seconds left. The referee stopped the clock and allowed Phoenix to set its offense, although normally the clock keeps running in similar situations.
The shot from Rostand Erlichman sailed untouched past a frozen Arizona Western defense and goalkeeper Dejan Milosevic, tying the game at one.
“Inexplicably sounds like a good word to me,” said AWC coach Kenny Dale, whose team was 0-1-1 against the Bears in the regular season. “I'll just say the word ‘inexplicably' and that's all I'm going to say.”
Dale did add it was a good effort by Erlichman.
“It was just a strike by their kid,” Dale said. “The free kick was very well hit. For some reason, the ball was right there, and the ref stopped the clock. The ball was right there. But it is what it is and that kid hit a great free kick.”
But the Matadors clamped down in the overtime, outshooting the bears but not scoring on Chavez, who entered the game after starting goalie Dallas Hunter collided with Carlos Vaquero. The play happened as Vaquero went up for a header off a pass from Carlos Peru, the two collided, and the ball went into the net to give the Matadors the lead.
Chavez made four saves in overtime but was beat on all five Matador penalty kicks that found their way past the sophomore, who is listed on the Bears roster as a midfielder. Hunter is the only goalie listed on the roster.
Milosevic didn't make a save in the penalty kicks, but got some help when Jonathan Perdomo's shot, the Bears' second attempt, sailed over the crossbar.
That miss prevented what would have been a big upset. The Matadors won 2-1 last year on penalty kicks in Phoenix, shocking the No. 2 Bears.
Now the Matadors, who won the ACCAC for the first time this season, face the Aztecs on Saturday, with a chance to claim their first Region I title.
“As a team we just kept ourselves emotionally pumped and didn't let it bring us down,” Hernandez said. “We just came back and kept fighting.”