The season just wasn't supposed to end this way for the talent-rich Maryland Bays.
They had dominated the regular season in the American Professional Soccer League and were considered a lock to make the championship series again this year.
Especially since the 10-11 Albany Capitals were the opponents for the 19-2 Bays in the best-of-two semifinals.
But when Lee Tschantret's 12-yard penalty kick sailed off Maryland goalkeeper Steve Powers' fingers into the upper left corner of the net Saturday night, the Capitals had completed the dismantling of the defending APSL champions at Cedar Lane Park in Columbia.
Tschantret's penalty kick enabled the Capitals to win the deciding 30-minute mini-game, 1-0, on penalty kicks -- after the Bays' 2-1 victory in the regulation second game -- and advance to the APSL finals against the San Francisco Bay Blackhawks. San Francisco beat Fort Lauderdale, 1-0, in overtime last night to win its series, 2-0.
Tschantret and Albany had a 5-4 edge in the best-of-five penalty-kick shootout after the scoreless mini-game.
Powers said of Tschantret's winning penalty kick: "I got my fingers on it, but I couldn't turn it over the goalposts. The ball was hit so hard that it went off my fingers into the net."
The difference in the shootout turned out to be a failed penalty kick by Maryland's John Abe, considered to be the Bays' best.
Abe, whose penalty kick won the APSL title last season for Maryland, was inserted into the mini-game with one minute left by coach Gary Hindley when it became apparent the game would be decided by penalty kicks.
Abe had not played Saturday night in Game 2 (won by the Bays on goals by Phillip Gyau and Kevin Sloan to force the deciding mini-game) and the first 29 minutes of the mini-game.
When Abe's turn came on Maryland's third of five penalty kicks, he decided to hit the ball to Albany goalkeeper Scoop Stanisic's left.
Stanisic, knowing Abe's penalty-kick tendencies from being Hershey teammates in the indoor National Professional Soccer League last season, cheated to his left and was there to stop the shot.
Abe said he decided to go with his best penalty kick even though Stanisic was probably expecting it.
"Scoop knows where I go, but I wanted to go with my best shot," said Abe. "I just wish I had been warmer."
However, Hindley said: "I told John to get warm on the sidelines with 13 minutes left in the mini-game. I think he was warm enough. You don't have to be that warm to take a penalty kick."
The mini-game shootout came after the Capitals spent most of the 30 minutes stalling because they were down one and two men at times.
Albany lost four players for the mini-game because of yellow cards in the regulation game, and Capitals defender Paul Mariner had a bad back.
That left Albany with 10 players to start the mini-game, and, 12 minutes later, the Capitals were down to nine when Peter Ilic received a red-card ejection.
Albany played nine against 11 for three minutes before the injured Mariner returned for the second half of the mini-game.