Over his two decades of coaching in the Puyallup High School Vikings soccer programs, Matt White has seen his share of nail-biting WIAA playoff shootouts.
But nothing like this.
Nothing close to 16 rounds of penalty kicks in a sudden-death shootout.
That is what the Class 4A West Central/Southwest bi-district championship came down to Thursday night - and the Vikings survived, 13-12, over favored 4A GSHL champion Union in the shootout after the teams finished regulation and two extra periods tied at 1-1.
And after Puyallup goalkeeper Nathan Vitzthum made a save in the 16th round, sophomore midfielder Liam Stone was the hero with his hesitation move toward the ball, striking the game winner inside the left post.
"We train for PKs the whole season long," Puyallup boys coach Matt White said. "And I've had a pretty consistently strong group of kids doing it."
A night of jubilation sure softened the blow of past shootout heartbreaks for White. Consider:
* As a player at Gresham High School in Oregon in 1985, White was part of a match that went to 12 rounds of penalty kicks.
"I was the 12th shooter - and missed," White said. "The ball is still in orbit ... "
* In 2013, after last-minute goals were scored by each team at the end of regulation, the Vikings lost (4-3) to Inglemoor after seven rounds of penalty kicks in the first round of the Class 4A tournament at Pop Keeney Stadium.
The Vikings practice shootout situations once or twice a week at practice while trying to simulate game-like pressure.
In one format, White gives each shooter a grading scale for all shootout goals made, ranging from '1' for lucky to '3' for untouchable in an effort to sharpen up the shotmaking.
In another format, White divides up his roster into two teams for a shootout - with the winner having to get to a certain total first.
"(Penalty kicks) are a different game," White said. "It's like you've played one game (in regulation and extra periods), and now you are playing an entirely different game ... like playing chess, and then you are playing checkers, even though the board looks the same."
Vitzthum was the difference maker for Puyallup - with a couple of key saves in regulation, and then his work in penalty kicks.
Not only did Vitzthum make four saves, he converted a penalty kick as a shooter in the 11th round.
"He never stops directing and giving information," White said.
How did White celebrate the wild victory?
"I just kind of went home and collapsed," the longtime coach said.
Both teams are in the field for the start of next week's 4A state tournament.
(Featured photo by Pete Caster/The (Tacoma) News Tribune