Christopher Bartolic now gets to start and finish a boys' soccer match as the Corona del Mar High goalkeeper. He has been looking forward to playing every minute.
He split time most of last season, as well as during the nonleague portion of the schedule this season. Coach George Larsen said Bartolic has earned the right to go the distance.
In the Sea Kings' Pacific Coast League opener, Bartolic played both halves, doing so at a high level. He made half a dozen saves to secure host CdM's 3-0 shutout of Beckman on Tuesday.
"He's been great," Larsen said of Bartolic. "He's been really looking for the opportunity to step up this year in his senior year. He wants to have an impact in these games."
Bartolic made a difference against Beckman, which has had the Sea Kings' number in recent seasons. The Patriots ruined CdM's undefeated league title run last season and CdM's CIF Southern Section playoffs hopes two seasons ago.
Bartolic wasn't going to let Beckman spoil the Sea Kings' start to league.
After CdM failed to capitalize on eight first-half corner kicks, Beckman appeared on its way to breaking a scoreless tie three minutes into the second half.
John Cisneros beat the CdM defense and dribbled into the box, taking a shot from the right side, but Bartolic stood in the way. He got down and deflected the ball to his left.
A minute later, Bartolic had to jump into traffic to make another stop.
Beckman's Kabir Sivjee sent a direct free kick from 35 yards out into the box, and before teammate Collin Adelseck could get his head on the ball, Bartolic grabbed the ball in mid-air while Adelseck collided with him. Bartolic held onto the ball.
The Patriots couldn't get anything past Bartolic. The Sea Kings finally got one into the back of the net.
The Sea Kings took advantage of a corner kick. Their ninth chance on the day came in the 49th minute, and they made something of it. Grant Joyce delivered the corner kick into the box with his left foot, and the ball bounced around before Niko Urban put it away to give CdM a 1-0 lead.
Beckman tried to answer right away.
Cisneros attacked from the left side, striking the ball toward to near post, but Bartolic dove to knock it away in the 51st minute. A couple of minutes later, Alexander Diego's cross from the left side, just outside of the box, to Trevor Lyon deep in the box put Bartolic in a dire situation, yet he reacted in time to glove the ball.
"Their keeper made some outstanding saves," Beckman Coach Eddie Bairam said. "We tested him. We had our chances."
Two CdM players — striker Kyle Mabwa and midfielder Will O'Connor — returned from respective hand and groin injuries and they gave Bartolic a little more breathing room.
Mabwa was on his way to a one-on-one situation with keeper Alejandro Perez-Vazquez, forcing him to come out. Mabwa popped the ball over Perez-Vazquez, and it began to veer toward the right, away from the post, until O'Connor slid in to finish the play. O'Connor's goal put the Sea Kings ahead, 2-0, in the 60th minute.
Joyce recorded CdM's third goal in the 65th minute, giving him a team-leading 10 on the season. The Sea Kings, who improved to 6-3-3 overall, became the second team in league to score three goals against the Patriots (5-3-1, 0-2-0 in league).
"They've always been our toughest competitor," said Bartolic, who was happy to blank the Patriots for 80 minutes. "It's just one of those times where I finally got a full game in after sharing a lot of time in the preseason, and it just felt good to get back out there. But my teammates did a great job helping me out on [the shutout]. We're a second-half team."
While the Sea Kings relied on the second half to score, Bartolic showed he is capable of performing in both halves of a match.