TACOMA, Wash. — Waad Hirmez completed a hat trick to extend the Tacoma Stars into overtime, and Branko Segota finished them off, 5-4, as the Sockers rolled up their ninth consecutive Major Indoor Soccer League victory before a crowd of 12,725 Saturday night at the Tacoma Dome.
Segota, blanked for 60 minutes of regulation play, ended the match 55 seconds into the extra session, clipping a right-footed turn shot from inside the box past Star goalkeeper Mike Dowler for his 33rd goal of the year.
Hirmez made it possible by completing his first hat trick of the season on a sixth-attacker score with 55 seconds remaining in regulation, deflecting a long Brian Quinn shot as it went through the box.
The Sockers improved their league-best record to 21-6, the best start ever for a San Diego team, and extended their lead over second-place Tacoma (14-14) to 7 1/2 games.
Coach Ron Newman attributed his team's best-ever start to "chemistry that all of a sudden, there it is."
"It seems every time we fill a spot for an injury, they come out and do well. This is what's so encouraging," he said. "We lost Hugo Perez and didn't miss a beat. Now we've lost Keder, who is doing so well, and we didn't miss a beat.
"We just keep plugging along. We've just hit the right chemistry. . . . We're a very knowledgeable defensive group, and my goalkeeping is first-class."
After a frenzied but scoreless opening, Steve Zungul finally scored with 1:02 remaining in the first period. Zungul passed to Ralph Black on the left wing and made a run to the left post, where he beat goalie Jim Gorsek to the return pass and punched the ball under the Socker keeper for his 32nd goal.
Gary Heale's outlet sprang Preki and Ralph Black on a breakaway against Gorsek. Preki's shot sailed wide left, but Heale sprinted behind the play and dragged a follow shot down the middle of the box for his 24th goal at 6:25.
San Diego countered with two goals of its own, all within a span of less than two minutes of the second quarter.
The Sockers struck 33 seconds later, Hirmez loading up at the left point off of a steal in the Stars' zone, and scored at 8:20. Segota battered his way around the right corner and headed a ball off the crossbar that George Fernandez pounded back in from the other side for his first goal as a Socker.
San Diego killed off a pair of power plays and the Stars did likewise to maintain the 2-2 deadlock until Preki rammed in a left-footer from the left point on a super power play with just 54 seconds remaining in the third quarter. Six fouls and a dissent penalty on Fernando Clavijo created the 5-on-3 situation.
Hirmez tied it again with 7:53 to play, running full out onto Paul Dougherty's rocket rebound and smashing it back even harder from 40 feet out for his 16th goal of the year.
Gorsek stuffed a Tacoma shootout with 6:06 to go as Preki pushed the ball too far in front of him and Gorsek came out to the top of the arc to slide tackle it away. But Preki, with the penalty still in effect, cracked a 40-footer past Gorsek 35 seconds later from way out top to boost the Stars back on top, 4-3.
The win was the eighth straight for Gorsek (11-3).