Capital Christian boys soccer coach Ab Alvarez knew winning a Sac-Joaquin Section championship wasn't going to be easy, not after heartbreaking down-to-the-wire losses in the 2010 and 2009 title matches.
It didn't help that the unbeaten Cougars were playing Golden Empire League rival West Campus and that Warriors leaping and diving goalkeeper Roman Hernandez was playing like a brick wall in Saturday's Division V championship match at Cosumnes River College.
But Alvarez has one of the best goalkeepers in Northern California in senior Johnny Murray, a fiery, focused four-year leader of a resilient bunch who wouldn't be denied this season, even after the match remained scoreless through 80 minutes of regulation and two 10-minute overtimes.
Capital Christian (19-0-3) defeated West Campus (16-5-1) on penalty kicks, 6 to 5.
"Ramon was having a great game - he's a top-notch goalie - and the shots weren't falling for us," Murray said. "But I kept telling the guys we can't let them get into our heads, that if we couldn't get one in regulation time or overtime, we'd take care of things in penalties."
Ironically, Murray helped Capital Christian win it with his foot rather than his hands.
He made one of the Cougars' six PKs and didn't have to make a winning save - a West Campus player saw his shot soar over the crossbar on the Warriors' last attempt.
"I love taking those," Murray said of the PK. "I bury those all the time, although this time I was just trying to do my best not to screw up."
Murray made a huge decision earlier in the season.
He was a member of the elite California Development Academy club team that midway in the season forced their players to chose either to play high school or club, but not both.
The University of San Diego recruit stayed with his high school team, even though he has national team aspirations.
"Right now it only confirms my decision," Murray said. "I wouldn't go back and change a thing. But it was a tough decision. There were national scouts at every one of my club games. But I figure if I'm good enough to get to the top, there is still time to get there."
Alvarez was happy to see his Cougars finally finish at the top.
"It's pretty amazing," Alvarez said. "This is a special group. And it's great to have Johnny with us. He's the spirit of the team."