One of them made controlling the midfield look effortless, speeding past the opposition to set up scoring chances for herself and others.
One of them offered invaluable leadership in the back as a sweeper, as well as booming free kicks that also set up scoring chances.
Without Annie Alvarado and Sydney Raguse, the Corona del Mar High girls' soccer team doesn't have its most successful year in Coach Bryan Middleton's 10-year tenure. Having them on the Newport-Mesa Dream Team was a no-brainer.
You could say Alvarado was the best offensive player in the area, and Raguse was the best defensive player. Both are repeat Dream Team selections.
This year, they share the Newport-Mesa Dream Team Player of the Year honor.
Alvarado, a junior who committed to UCLA last November, was deadly in the open field. As a center midfielder, she led Corona del Mar (22-3-2) with 13 goals and added seven assists. She helped the Sea Kings win their second straight outright league title, and also win a tournament for the first time under Middleton. CdM won the Los Tacos Holiday Tournament at Flintridge Sacred Heart in December.
"Her striking ability on the ball was very proficient," Middleton said of Alvarado, who was also a deadly set-piece specialist on free kicks. She even took corner kicks for the first time, and was able to serve the ball with great accuracy.
"She's a very sound central midfield player," Middleton said. "She has phenomenal technical ability on the ball, and ability to see the field."
Alvarado, who has grown several inches since her freshman year, was a first-team All-Pacific Coast League selection for the second straight year, as well as an All-CIF Southern Section Division 1 pick. She and Raguse were both all-tournament team selections at the Butch Lee Memorial Classic tournament in San Diego.
Raguse, who was a fixture on defense for CdM in her four-year varsity career, was the Sea Kings' other All-CIF selection. The University of Michigan-bound Raguse brought stability on the back line, even as senior goalie Sarah Cox was injured in the early season and sophomore Kendall Mulvaney filled in admirably.
Raguse scored four goals this year, all coming off corner kicks. But she was just as comfortable serving up beautiful free kicks for her teammates.
"Any ball within five yards of the midfield, she was able to hit it all the way into the box," Middleton said.
Raguse, the Pacific Coast League Defensive MVP and one of four team captains, helped Corona del Mar earn the No. 1 seed in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs. CdM fell to Santa Margarita, 1-0, in the quarterfinals.
Raguse and Alvarado also are club teammates on Legends Breakaway, along with CdM teammates Amanda Stephenson and Karsten Sigband. In the high school season, they helped the Sea Kings accomplish big things.
"CdM girls' soccer has never won a tournament before, so that in itself was a huge deal for us," Raguse said. "We set goals for ourselves, and we reached them. In the beginning, when we set goals, we always make sure they're hard to reach. When we accomplished them, it was a big deal for us."
CdM was ranked in the top 10 nationally for much of the season. At one point, the Sea Kings had a 15-game winning streak and 18-game unbeaten streak. They accomplished three of their four goals by winning the Battle of the Bay, winning a tournament and accomplishing an unbeaten league season.
"I think that we definitely had some high expectations, getting ranked really high in the beginning," Alvarado said. "It was a little bit scary at first, but we handled it well. We took it game-by-game. We had our four goals, but we were never looking ahead. We had to complete each goal, one-by-one ... We came up short in CIF, but I think we worked extremely hard and had a good finish."
Here's a look at the other 12 players on the 2011-12 Newport-Mesa Dream Team:
Corona del Mar
The senior left defender was a three-year stalwart at the position. A team captain, the George Mason-bound Stephenson had great service of the ball up the field. She also provided toughness for her team, rarely letting an opponent beat her out for possession.
Stephenson, who had four assists, was a first-team All-Pacific Coast League selection.
She earned the Outstanding Attacker award in the Sunset League. It was easy to see why, as the senior forward scored a team-high 12 goals. She helped Newport Harbor (8-11-3, 6-3-1 in league) finish third in the competitive league. Newport Harbor made the CIF playoffs in consecutive years for the first time since 2001 and 2002.
Jogwe was selected to play in the Southern California High School Soccer Coaches senior showcase all-star game.
Corona del Mar
A repeat Dream Team selection, Brahs remained a very versatile player in her senior year. She is headed to the University of Washington as a defender, yet she had 10 goals and a team-best 10 assists last season. Teams would regularly but their best defender on Brahs, who in turn could also effectively help back to try to shut down an opponent's top threat.
Brahs, a team captain, was a first-team All-Pacific Coast League and third-team All-CIF selection. She was also selected to play in the Southern California High School Soccer Coaches senior showcase all-star game.
Thomas, a senior goalie, was very steady for first-year Coach Catie Chase. Thomas was also a talented field player, but she performed as needed in goal for Sage. Thomas recorded 12 shutouts and helping the Lightning (13-6-3) finish third in the Academy League and advance to the second round of the CIF Southern Section Division 6 playoffs.
Thomas was a first-team all-league selection and also earned first-team All-CIF laurels for Division 6.
Corona del Mar
The Stanford-bound Cox was the first-team goalie on the All-Pacific Coast League first team. She missed the start of the season due to a sternum injury but was dominant in league, where she was only scored upon three times.
Cox, a team captain and second-team All-CIF selection, had eight shutouts. She allowed just five goals in 13 games.
The tall junior midfielder was a crucial piece for the Sailors, helping them utilize their ball-control offense. Castillo had two goals and two assists.
Castillo, a first-team All-Sunset League selection, also was part of a strong force in the center of the field. She scored a goal in the final league game as the Sailors clinched a playoff berth by beating Huntington Beach.
Corona del Mar
Sigband made a triumphant return from an ACL injury that caused her to miss her sophomore year. The junior was a physical ball-winner in the midfield, and she was very skilled in her passing ability. She was an all-tournament team selection at the Butch Lee Memorial Classic tournament.
Sigband, a second-team all-league selection, had four goals and five assists.
A four-year varsity starter, Flores stood just over 5 feet tall. But her tenacious nature and skill on the pitch helped the Eagles (9-9-6), who made the CIF Southern Section Division 4 playoffs in all four of Flores' seasons.
Flores, a repeat Dream Team selection and team captain, tied for the team lead with six goals and also had a team-best five assists. The first-team All-Orange Coast League selection is bound for Cal State San Marcos.
Corona del Mar
O'Connor, a junior forward, was very dangerous from the top of the 18 for CdM. A UC Santa Barbara commit, O'Connor tied Brahs for second on the team with 10 goals, also dishing out two assists.
Middleton said O'Connor, a second-team all-league selection, was also tough. She played through an ankle injury in the playoffs
The senior defender offered stability from the center fullback position, even as injuries affected the rest of the Sailors' back line. Boler, a good ball-winner and distributor, was a first-team All-Sunset League selection.
Boler, an Air Force Academy commit, also was selected to play in the Southern California High School Soccer Coaches senior showcase all-star game.
Whitford stepped in as a freshman stopper and made a big contribution. Her fearless nature and athleticism helped Sage shut down opponents defensively, just as they helped the Lightning girls' volleyball team win the CIF Southern Section Division IV-AA title in the fall.
Whitford was a first-team all-Academy League and was a second-team All-CIF Division 6 choice.
Just a freshman, Guzman impressed this year for Coach Jessica Perry's Eagles. Perry said Guzman was quiet by nature, but on the pitch the forward was so smooth.
Guzman tied for the team lead with six goals. She was a second-team All-Orange Coast League selection.
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