Lindsey Luke was seemingly always smiling on the field this season for the Corona del Mar High girls' soccer team.
If you anchored the kind of defense the Sea Kings had this season, you'd smile too.
Luke made big save after big save in goal. She was a key reason CdM had its most successful season in years, winning its first outright Pacific Coast League title in 11 years and advancing to the CIF Southern Section playoff quarterfinals in its first season up in Division I.
The first-team All-Pacific Coast League goalie was also a first-team All-CIF Southern Section Division I selection, just one of two goalies to earn that distinction.
Luke is also the Daily Pilot Dream Team Player of the Year. It's something more to smile about for the Wake Forest-bound senior, who didn't play high school soccer her junior year.
"A couple of the girls asked me if I was going to come back," Luke said. "I talked to [Coach Bryan] Middleton and he was like, 'This is going to be a fun year.' I was like, 'All right.'
"I kind of go with the flow. Playing for the team was always fun. It was cool to have a relaxed state of mind through the whole thing. We had fun, but we also worked hard."
Luke notched 12 shutouts for the Sea Kings (15-4-5). In 1,702 minutes of play, she gave up just 10 goals.
Middleton appreciated the fact that Luke came back to the team her senior year. She has long been an accomplished club goalie, winning five national State Cup titles with the Slammers and CdM boys' coach George Larsen. Luke also was a member of the under-18 women's national team player pool last year.
In high school this season, though, she was needed. This was especially true since Middleton's side lost another top goalie, junior Stanford commit Sarah Cox, to an ACL injury.
"It just showed maturity that she chose to come back and play not only for herself, but for the team and the program," he said. "Any tournament we went to, they'd ask, 'Where's your goalkeeper going next year?' She's phenomenal. She played with that intensity all year long … She's already playing at the level she needs to play at next year in college."
Luke's friend and Slammers club teammate Kaylee O'Connor missed time and was never quite 100% this year, with a stress fracture in her foot and injured knee. But Luke and the Sea Kings defense, including stopper Hannah Rome, sweeper Sydney Raguse, Alana Hunter and Amanda Stephenson, never skipped a beat. Only once all season did the Sea Kings give up more than one goal, coming when Irvine converted a penalty kick just before the end of the game.
"Lindsey's technical ability to get the ball is phenomenal," Middleton said. "She has a fast reaction time and she knows how to position herself. Besides being a phenomenal goalkeeper, it was her communication this year with our defense and, as a whole, our team … She showed great leadership … Everyone on the team was on the same page because she was directing the flow of traffic."
Luke had fun throughout. Early in the season she was an all-tournament selection at the Butch Lee Memorial tournament in San Diego. She played some of her best soccer in the postseason as well, making 15 saves in a CIF second-round shootout win over Los Alamitos.
In the Sea Kings' final game of the season, a 1-0 CIF quarterfinal loss to San Clemente on Feb. 24, Luke had eight saves. She also had fun. She was playing against two of her Slammers club teammates and best friends, the Tritons' Tessa Andujar (who played at CdM her first two years) and Frannie Coxe.
Even in the middle of a very intense game, Luke didn't let nerves get the best of her. When the ball would be played back to her, she'd grin and perform ball tricks, tempting her friends before snatching the ball up at the last minute.
"It was funny," Luke said. "Tessa knew I was just going to pick it up. It was fun teasing her."
Luke wasn't a tease for the Sea Kings. She was the real deal. And nobody needs to ask her if she made the right choice to come back.
"I'm really happy that I did play," she said. "It was so much fun. This team was definitely the closest team out of the three years that I've played, and it was a really great season."
Here's a look at the other 12 Newport-Mesa players who make this year's Dream Team:
Freiberger, a four-year varsity starter, helped the Eagles accomplish big things in 2011. The team captain and Orange Coast League MVP led Estancia — and the league — with 15 goals and 10 assists. She helped the Eagles (14-5-3, 7-1-2 in league) win their first outright league title since 1993, then reach the second round of the CIF Southern Section Division IV playoffs. She's a Cal State Dominguez Hills signee.
Feinstein, like Freiberger, will play for Cal State Dominguez Hills next year. A team captain and four-year varsity player, Feinstein led Costa Mesa in both goals (13) and assists (seven). The midfielder/forward brought tons of energy for Mesa, as she did in volleyball and does in softball. The Mesa soccer team (6-9-8, 4-3-3 in league) missed the playoffs but Feinstein helped the Mustangs go 1-0-1 against league champion Estancia, scoring a goal in a 1-1 tie in the league finale. She was a first-team All-Orange Coast League selection and played for Division IV in a Southern California High School Coaches Assn. all-star game.
Swift was a four-year varsity starter and a key reason why the Sailors enjoyed their best season since joining the Sunset League in 2006. The senior controlled the action as a defensive midfielder, helping Newport Harbor (8-13-3, 6-4 in league) finish third in league after finishing fourth the previous three years. The Sailors not only made the playoffs for the first time in six years but also won a first-round Division I game at Saugus. Swift scored big goals, one against Saugus and one in stoppage time at Huntington Beach. Coach Larry Draluck called Swift, a first-team All-Sunset League selection, the Sailors' "glue" that helped hold the team together.
Corona del Mar
The junior was perhaps the best non-goalie defender in the area. She also played midfielder but Raguse also shined as a sweeper for the Sea Kings, particularly with senior Kaylee O'Connor out for part of the year with a foot injury, She was almost always able to get the ball out of danger. She also created scoring opportunities, specializing in taking free kicks. Raguse, who has committed to the University of Michigan, was a first-team All-Pacific Coast League selection and third-team All-CIF Southern Section Division I honoree.
The junior defender was the Lightning's team captain and the distinction was well-earned. She played very intelligently on the pitch, Coach Chino Cid said, anticipating plays and reacting accordingly. She was a mastermind of a tough defensive line that earned 11 shutouts in 22 matches. Taskinen was a first-team All-Academy League selection for Sage Hill (10-9-2).
The senior helped the Sailors a lot defensively like Swift, her good friend and club soccer teammate with Wolfpack Soccer Club. In Barnard's case, the senior helped stop opponents' opportunities from the outside fullback position. Barnard helped lend stability to the defense, even as junior goalie Emily Browne was injured for part of the year. A second-team all-league selection, she helped the Sailors score a 1-0 upset win at eventual league champion Edison.
Corona del Mar
Brahs was versatile for the Sea Kings, excelling in either the forward, attacking center midfield or defensive midfield spot. But that wasn't surprising to Coach Bryan Middleton, who has been able to play the junior at different positions for the past three years now. Still, the University of Washington commit definitely had a knack for scoring goals, finishing with a team-best 16 of them. Brahs was the Pacific Coast League Offensive MVP. She scored the team's lone regulation goal and also converted the first penalty kick in a shootout win over Los Alamitos in the second round of the Division I playoffs. Brahs was a second-team All-CIF Southern Section Division I selection.
Coach Jessica Gatica said Flores didn't score as many goals this year because teams figured out who she was. The junior forward was OK with it, as she produced five goals and seven assists for the league champion Eagles. Flores, a first-team all-league player, stands just five feet tall. But she's a very fast player and she used that speed to help Estancia create scoring opportunities.
Brenna Van Hoogenstyn
Cid had high praise for his sophomore midfielder/defender, a first-team All-Academy League selection who was versatile despite missing time due to injury and sickness. Her passion helped the Lightning. Cid said Van Hoogenstyn will be a big part of the program the next two years and that she's probably the one player on the team he wouldn't want to go in on a tackle against "because she goes in so hard." She was a third-team All-CIF Southern Section Division VI selection.
A four-year varsity player, Khademi created countless opportunities from the midfield spot. The University of Nevada signee stood just 5-foot-1 but was tenacious, and Draluck said she always put a lot of pressure on defenses. Khademi scored the goal on a penalty kick in Newport Harbor's 1-0 upset of league champion Edison. Khademi was a first-team all-league selection. Like her teammates Swift and Barnard, Khademi played in the Southern California High School Coaches Assn. All-Star game for Division I.
Corona del Mar
The right midfielder always looked very composed on the pitch for CdM, despite the fact that she was just a sophomore. Alvarado did big things for the Sea Kings, finishing second on the team with nine goals and also notching a team-best seven assists. She was elusive with the ball and also very dangerous on set pieces, either taking the kick or putting the ball away. Her two goals on free kicks helped CdM win the league title at Woodbridge. Alvarado was a first-team all-league selection and third-team All-CIF Southern Section Division I honoree.
The 5-foot-11 senior captain was important from the defensive midfielder position. Also fast and coordinated, she was big on free kicks, either on the kicking or receiving end. O'Neil, who scored five goals for the Eagles, was first-team all-league in both soccer and tennis.
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