MURRIETA -- Their season didn't exactly end the way Murrieta Valley's girls soccer players would have liked Friday night. Chaparral, on the other hand, got exactly what it wanted.
Junior Angelina Venegas' 56th-minute penalty kick tied Friday's match, and the Pumas defense hung on for a 1-1 tie with host Murrieta Valley in both teams' Southwestern League regular-season finale.
That result, combined with Great Oak's 4-1 victory over Temecula Valley, gave the Wolfpack and Nighthawks co-league championships with 6-2-2 records (14 points). Chaparral (4-2-4 league, 12 points) qualifies for the playoffs in third place with the league's final automatic playoff berth.
At 5-4-1, fourth-place Temecula Valley must hope for at-large berth.
"I felt like we played with intensity, played desparately, whatever you want to call it," Chaparral coach Maury Cauchon said. "I felt it was a really good match for both teams."
A victory on senior night would have given Murrieta Valley (14-6-6 overall) an outright league title. And though there were some tears afterward, the Nighthawks acknowledged a co-championship was nothing to hang heads over.
"It's bittersweet, but we fought as hard as we could," Nighthawks junior goalkeeper Carson Dukes, who had eight saves, said.
"Two years in a row, we've shared the league championship," Murrieta Valley coach Harry Hutcheson said. "Hey, that's not too shabby."
Play on the pitch Friday wasn't shabby, either, as the two teams played an exciting, quick-striking contest that was a clash to the end.
Dukes alerted everyone to that fact in the 21st minute when she stoned Chaparral striker Corey Strang, stopping the sophomore on a breakaway in front of goal. That seemed to spark the Nighthawks, who peppered a flurry of shots at the Pumas (14-6-4 overall) while controlling posession for much of the rest of the first 20 minutes.
"It does kind of give everyone a kick when a goalie makes a play like that," Dukes said. "I always think, 'put everything into it and hope it carries out onto the field.'"
Problem was, the Nighthawks couldn't get quality shots, or they would miss by a hair. In all, Murrieta Valley shot 16 times, but only six were on goal.
They did finally break through in the 47th minute, when Cassie Elmore controlled the ball at the Chaparral end and crossed in front of goal to Lauren Palmer. Palmer, unmarked on the left side, headed in the go-ahead score, which bounced off her body and past Chaparral keeper Julie Eastman for a 1-0 lead.
Moments later, Chaparral got a penalty kick off a yellow card in the Murrieta Valley end. Venegas kept her head down and fired past Dukes, to her right side to tie the match.
From there, the Nighthawks tried to push upfield, but the Pumas effectively used their counterattack to deny Murrieta Valley. Strang had an opportunity in the 65th minute but couldn't beat Dukes, who herself kept Chaparral's offense back with booming goalie kicks.
"She's good," Cauchon said of Dukes. "She should be playing on the football team and punting."
The match ended in a tie, which denied Hutcheson his 200th win. He took it in perspective afterward.
"I told the girls, 'I'd rather be sitting on 199 and you guys won a league championship more than anything else,'" he said.