COSTA MESA — Coach Doug Nichols can count the number of goals his Carden Hall Elementary girls' soccer teams have allowed the past two years at Daily Pilot Cup on two fingers.
This year, Nichols can just use his fingers to form a big zero.
No team scored on Carden Hall in the tournament. The Eagles turned in a dominant performance on defense.
The Eagles capped their run Sunday by shutting out Pegasus, 2-0, to defend their fifth- and sixth-grade gold division title at the Costa Mesa Farm Complex.
In five matches, Carden Hall outscored the opposition, 16-0. Getting quality shots off on the defense was difficult. When Pegasus managed a shot on goal in the second half, goalkeeper Hunter Gantos said she felt nervous.
She did not want the Eagles' shutout streak to end in the biggest match.
Most of the Eagles had been on this championship stage before, last year in the fifth- and sixth-grade gold division and two years ago in the third- and fourth-grade gold division. The experience catapulted Carden Hall to the top for a third straight year.
With the defense so stingy, all Nichols and Coach Rick Taylor waited for was the Eagles' offense. They had to be patient because Pegasus goalkeeper Bren Blower kept turning shots back.
Late in the first half, Sophia Morris got the offense rolling for the Eagles. Leave it to one of only two fifth-graders on the team to spark Carden Hall.
Morris dribbled past the defense, finding space. She then drove the ball with her right foot toward the far post, giving Carden Hall a 1-0 lead in the 24th minute.
This was Morris' first time playing on this grade level, but she is quick to remind you that she was on the third- and fourth-grade gold division title team in 2009.
One player who has been a part of Carden Hall's three-peat is Kate Hampton.
She wears prescription sunglasses to protect her eyes. It did not take Hampton much time in the second half to spot an opening in the defense.
Behind nifty dribbling by Julia Ackerman, Hampton was able to break free for a little bit. Once Ackerman delivered a pass, Hampton quickly tapped the ball to the right, past the keeper.
Carden Hall grabbed a 2-0 lead and it was 21 minutes away from celebrating another crown. This latest one run was probably more impressive.
The Eagles had only one player on the bench to turn to if someone on the field needed a breather. That player was Nichols' daughter, Emma, and she was not 100%. Emma dealt with back issues, but when Beatrice Marshall hurt her knee during a 4-0 victory against Newport Coast in the quarterfinals on Saturday, Nichols needed Emma.
Emma was there Sunday morning, when Carden Hall had to get through rival Andersen in the semifinals to make a third straight title appearance. The Eagles usually face Andersen in the finale. The semifinal was close, as Carden Hall prevailed, 1-0.
"That gave us some confidence for the afternoon [title] game," said Nichols, who stood and watched his players at the end hold up one finger, showing that Carden Hall was No. 1 again at the Pilot Cup.