Annie Alvarado is a dominant center midfielder for the Corona del Mar High girls' soccer team, the way she weaves between defenders and creates scoring opportunities for herself and her teammates.
Alvarado usually leaves the opposition in the dust. But one place the UCLA-bound senior can't see herself leaving is the coast.
"I'm definitely a Southern California girl," she said. "I can't get out of here. I've got to be by the beach."
She makes waves with her play on the pitch. The Daily Pilot Athlete of the Week is one of four senior captains for CdM, along with midfielder Karsten Sigband, forward Maddie O'Connor and defender Alana Hunter.
Alvarado really makes CdM go. She has two goals and a team-best five assists in the early season for the Sea Kings. She has helped them achieve rankings of No. 2 in CIF Southern Section Division 1, and No. 3 in the state according to Elite Soccer Report.
Missing several starters, CdM made the championship match of the North Orange County Classic white division on Saturday before falling to South Torrance, 1-0.
Alvarado, a Newport-Mesa Dream Team Co-Player of the Year and first-team All-CIF Division 1 performer last year, was one of the starters missing. She is dealing with a slight groin pull suffered in Thursday's win over Fountain Valley, which caused her to sit out the last three games of the tournament. Coach Bryan Middleton said he hopes she'll be back by the time Pacific Coast League play begins after CdM's winter break.
It's obvious why Middleton has his fingers crossed. Alvarado is one of the best players in the history of the school. Middleton said that in his 11-year coaching tenure at CdM, he's never had a midfielder like her.
"I mean, I've had a string of very good goalkeepers," Middleton said. "I've had many very intelligent and smart defenders in the back. I've had a few pure forwards over the years, they get the ball up top and they go to goal with speed and score. But to control the whole midfield and flow of the game like she does out of that position, and to keep possession for us? I don't have a former player to compare her to. She's kind of on a level all her own there."
Alvarado can give some of the credit to her best friend, Sigband. They're both three-year starters at CdM, and they have been playing club soccer together for years. Last month, they helped Coach Greg Baker's SoCal Blues 18-and-under team win the San Diego Surf Cup. It was the first time Alvarado and Sigband had won the championship at the prestigious tournament; Jill Messersmith of Newport Harbor also is on that Blues team.
"Karsten and I are best friends off the field, and we're best friends on the field," Alvarado said. "We really can work well together, and we know where each other are at all times. I always know where she's going to be, and I always know that if I lose the ball she's going to be supporting me. It's awesome. We have a really rare bond, I would say, on the field. It's really fun, because we get to do it in club and in high school."
Alvarado definitely has fun. At times she may appear quiet, but she's also fiercely competitive. No one wants to win more.
A good example came in the North Orange County Classic opener against Pacifica. It was a physical match. Finally, Alvarado spoke up to the referee.
"The other team was whacking our team, and he wasn't dropping any yellow cards," Alvarado said. "I wasn't being rude. I just said, 'Ref, I think that you should probably give a yellow card so the fouls stop.'
"Then he started pulling out the yellow card to give to me ... that's where my competitive nature comes out a little too much."
But the passion will serve her well at the next level as well, with the Bruins. Alvarado's older sister, Kate, already is a junior at UCLA.
Annie's two younger siblings are also heavily involved in sports. Her brother, Joe, is a freshman basketball player at Mater Dei. The youngest Alvarado, Jennifer, plays club soccer for the Blues on an under-11 team also coached by Baker. Annie and Jennifer share the same position, center midfielder.
"It's cool to see her develop as a player and see where's she's going to end up," Annie Alvarado said of Jennifer, who's in the fifth grade. "She's a very good player. She's more of a defensive holding mid. I do get forward a little bit more.
"I ride her pretty hard," she added with a laugh. "I just like to push her. It's fun."
The elder Alvarado's high school team has shown a lot of heart with its play this month. February may still seem like a long time away, but Annie Alvarado obviously would like to end her high school career with the program's first CIF championship. You could say it's the only thing missing on her high school soccer résumé.
"It's the ultimate goal, just ending with a bang senior year," she said. "I think we have the makings to do it this year. I think we have the team. On paper, I think we can do it, but it's just whether or not we're going to be able to work hard enough and keep growing as a team. If we put it all out there, I think we have a good chance."
Once she gets healthy, Alvarado will do everything in her power to help the Sea Kings get there. With her skills and ability to make the players around her better, the Sea Kings do appear poised to make a run.
"She's just a very intelligent soccer player," Middleton said. "She has awareness on the field, one step ahead of time, of what needs to be done with the ball. She's probably one of the best technical high school players that I've seen in the 11 years I've coached high school soccer."
Born: Dec. 12, 1994
Hometown: Newport Beach
Coach: Bryan Middleton
Favorite food: Mom's steak tacos
Favorite movie: "Dumb and Dumber"
Favorite athletic moment: Helping the Southern California Blues Under-18 club team win the prestigious San Diego Surf Cup tournament last month.
Week in review: Alvarado, a center midfielder who led CdM with five assists as of Friday, helped the Sea Kings win the Battle of the Bay, 2-1, over Newport Harbor on Dec. 20.