IRVINE — The Corona del Mar High girls' soccer team took much of the drama out of the match early.
The Sea Kings needed to win or tie Friday's rescheduled Pacific Coast League finale against University to capture their third straight outright league title. And, with first-half goals by sophomore Shelby Brown and junior Jayden Smith, Coach Bryan Middleton could feel comfortable at halftime.
Corona del Mar has not given up three goals in a match all year.
As it turns out, CdM is not giving up its perch atop the league either.
Senior captain Annie Alvarado also scored in the second half as the Sea Kings cruised, 3-0, at Irvine High. They claimed that third straight outright league title, and fourth league title in the past five years.
With their third league win of the week, they also showed they have momentum going into the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs.
"We played to our game plan, the same way we've played the last four games," Middleton said. "It's been a total team effort. We're playing exactly how we like to play. Just keep possession of the ball, move it, go forward with pace and we'll get our opportunities. The biggest thing is, we've been finishing our opportunities. We've got our confidence back."
If University (10-5-4, 5-3-2 in league) had beaten CdM (15-3-4, 7-1-2 in league), the teams would have had a three-way tie for the title with Northwood (6-2-2 in league). Middleton said Northwood would have taken the top league designation for CIF due to its head-to-head record among the three teams, while CdM and University would have had a coin flip for the second designation.
CdM, ranked No. 6 in Division 1, made sure that didn't happen. Even better, the Sea Kings are getting healthy just in time for the CIF playoffs. University of Arizona-bound senior defender Alexa Mamatas (ankle) played nearly a half Friday, and Middleton said sophomore center back Brianna Westrup (knee) could be close to returning.
Brown and sophomore Elise Roche played on the back line against University.
"We all play really well together, me, Alexa and Brianna and Brynne [Motal]," said senior defender Alana Hunter, a team captain. "I think that having that back during CIF will definitely benefit the whole team, but we did really well with Shelby and Elise back there. They did a really good job. I just think we connect really well with each other."
Brown provided the first goal on a free kick from the left in the 18th minute. The ball was deflected by the University goalkeeper, but the referee ruled that it had crossed the goal line.
Smith struck in the 35th minute, just moments after she was subbed into the game. Her run up the left found her in the box, where she flicked a shot into the right corner.
University was missing a top player, junior midfielder/defender Chloe Hemingway, in each of its two losses to CdM this season. Coach Dominic Fratantaro said that on Friday, Hemingway was at an United States under-18 national team training camp at The Home Depot Center. He said his side was also missing junior defender Amanda Evertz.
The Trojans did have back UCLA commit Reema Bzeih, another junior defender who helped limit her team's bleeding.
But CdM's third goal, by another UCLA-bound player late in the game, was an example of CdM finishing its opportunities. Alvarado took the cross from the right from Oregon State commit Miranda Stiver, found an opening in the box and scored. Sophomore Birkley Sigband also aided in the play, shielding out a University defender on the pass.
Sigband's older sister, senior midfielder and team captain Karsten, said everyone on CdM has had to come together through the short-handed times.
"Losing players kind of hurt our flow, but we figured it out," Karsten Sigband said. "Everyone had to step up and contribute in ways they didn't think they would have to, maybe, going into the season. I think that made us even closer, and made us work together even better."
Junior Kendall Mulvaney (first half) and freshman Kat Hess (second half) combined to make four saves in goal for CdM.
The Sea Kings now await Monday's release of the CIF pairings. They will host a first-round match Thursday, more than likely at Jim Scott Stadium.
CdM finished the league season by outscoring teams 14-2 in its last four matches, all wins.
"There were a few games there where we didn't have the confidence going forward," Middleton said. "The greatest thing is that getting the subs in off the bench and getting them playing time lifted their confidence. They've started to score goals for us and produce for us. Now I know that if something happens in a big game and one of my starters goes out, one of the players off the bench can come in and fill the role just fine. We're deep now."
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