Girls' Soccer: Sailors new and improved

LAGUNA HILLS — The Newport Harbor High girls' soccer team has new uniforms this season, with more gray than in the past along with the familiar navy blue color.

The uniforms also are long-sleeved, which makes sense to first-year Coach Justin Schroeder. A lot of the Sailors' games will be on chilly nights like Thursday, when Newport traveled to play Laguna Hills in a nonleague game. That's what happens when you don't have a home stadium, as Davidson Field is closed for renovations.

It may be a season of change, but at least one of the changes is certainly welcome.

"We're winning," Sailors senior defender Kathryn Peters said. "It's an awesome change of pace for senior year. We expect good things."

The Sailors showed their skills to Laguna Hills on Thursday. Senior Sianna Siemonsma and freshman Sadie Pitchess each scored as Newport Harbor notched a 2-0 win at Laguna Hills High. The Sailors' record is now the same, 2-0.

Newport Harbor is already halfway to matching its win total from last year, when the Sailors went 4-13-7. It was a tumultuous one. Former coach Larry Draluck resigned midway through the season, and Newport Harbor went on to finish in last place in the six-team Sunset League.

But there are nothing but good vibes this season, sophomore midfielder Emily Johnson said.

"I'm definitely a lot more comfortable, because a lot of the girls have become my best friends," Johnson said. "That makes it so much easier for me to come out strong in the beginning. And this year, with the new coaching staff and everything, I feel so much more confident in my team and my coaches. I know that this year is going to be better. [It's] completely a fresh start."

Johnson helped put the Sailors ahead in the 30th minute on Thursday night. She put a small touch on a through ball to Siemonsma, who banged the shot into the lower left corner of the net.

The game got chippy in the second half, as Siemonsma tussled with Laguna Hills junior defender Carly Crocker. A lot of grabbing in the 60th minute resulted in Crocker going down in the box, and Siemonsma being issued a yellow card.

Siemonsma, who has never been known to back down from a physical game, entered again later in the half. She was fouled twice more in the closing minutes.

"Physicality is just part of the game," Peters said. "You have to learn to adapt and deal with it. We did a lot of strength training in the preseason, so we're ready for the Sunset League. I mean, it's annoying when you get pushed down from behind and they're messy fouls, but you expect it and you deal with it, move on to the next play."

The Sailors defensive back line, led by varsity returners Peters and junior Scout Farmer and newcomers Ashlee Young and freshman MaKenzie Trigo, was stout. Junior goalie Ryah Montano made three saves against Laguna Hills (1-3-2), the third-place finisher from the Sea View League a year ago.

Meanwhile, Newport Harbor doubled its lead. Johnson's shot in the 70th minute clanged off the crossbar, her second time doing that of the night. But Pitchess was there to stick in the rebound goal, the first of her high school career.

Pitchess and Trigo are two of the Sailors' three freshman starters, along with midfielder Skylynn Rodriguez.

"That's the future, right there," Schroeder said. "Coming in here, if freshmen deserve to get on the field, they're going to get on the field based on skill. Clearly, you can see those three kids earned it."

The Sailors are trying to earn their first CIF playoff appearance since 2012. It's still early in the season, but they will take momentum from Thursday's result.

Newport Harbor begins play Saturday in the Best in the West tournament, which Schroeder runs. The Sailors have pool-play games at Whittier College, against La Serna at 9:30 a.m. and Malibu at 3:20 p.m.

Schroeder said the morning game may be tough, as several of his players will be out because they're taking the ACT test.

But on the field so far, the Sailors are certainly earning high marks.