Junior midfielder Shelby Brown called the end of the Corona del Mar High girls' soccer season "crazy," and nobody who saw the games would argue.
Two tight wins on the road at the end of league helped the Sea Kings win their fourth straight outright league title. In the first, CdM had to survive a last-minute, penalty-kick attempt against Beckman. In the second, the Sea Kings had to rally from a two-goal deficit at Northwood in the final 20 minutes.
CdM then earned two shootout wins in its first two games of the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs, against Fountain Valley and Upland. The Sea Kings fell to Foothill in the quarterfinals to end the memorable run.
"It was crazy, and it was really fun," Brown said. "I've never experienced any games like that before. These were probably the craziest games I've [played in]."
The games weren't the only crazy thing about the second half of the Sea Kings' season. The play of Brown was equally insane.
Standing just 5-foot-4, Brown put the Sea Kings (13-6-4) on her back after returning from a concussion. Deadly on her free kicks as well as in the run of play, she scored off a free kick in the Beckman game. She had a goal and two assists, factoring in all three goals in the comeback win at Northwood.
These were masterful performances with CdM's league title streak on the line. And for the season, Brown tied for the team lead with six goals and led CdM with eight assists. Her leadership earned her Pacific Coast League Offensive MVP honors, as well as first-team All-CIF Division 1 honors.
Brown can add another honor to the list. She is the 2013-14 Daily Pilot Newport-Mesa Player of the Year for girls' soccer.
"She just stepped up as a leader and shined," CdM Coach Bryan Middleton said. "It was definitely an overall team effort ... but she definitely stood out as one of the top players on our team. She made things happen in the second half of league."
Brown, a high-level club soccer player, is on the same Slammers FC team with CdM teammates Miranda Stiver, Brianna Westrup and Brynn Motal. On CdM, she has enjoyed even more of a leadership role after the Sea Kings lost two high-level midfielders, Annie Alvarado (now at UCLA) and Karsten Sigband, to graduation.
Of her three years on varsity, Brown said this year was easily the toughest. The Sea Kings lost the Battle of the Bay game to rival Newport Harbor for the first time in four years, and fell behind in league play after bad losses to University and Irvine.
In the end, however, the Sea Kings ended up on top. And Brown, whose nickname is "Chutty," could definitely be proud of that.
"Everyone said it was going to be a rebuilding year, and I think we all just wanted to prove them wrong," she said. "We all worked together as a team to do that, and that motivated all of us."
Here's a look at the other 11 players on this year's Newport-Mesa Girls' Soccer Dream Team:
A senior captain, Prather provided leadership for the Sailors (7-14-3, 1-7-2 in league). Newport Harbor suffered injuries to key forwards, but Prather led the team with 11 goals scored from the center midfield and forward positions. She had a goal and an assist as Newport Harbor upset CdM, 3-2, in the Battle of the Bay game for its first rivalry victory in four years. A three-year varsity player, Prather will play soccer at Colorado State University-Pueblo.
Corona del Mar
Mulvaney has been in goal for the Sea Kings on varsity for four years now. Her senior year, the job was all hers, as the team captain played the position all season. And Mulvaney, who has signed with the University of Denver, made 100 saves and came up with some big moments. She helped CdM earn back-to-back shootout wins in the first two rounds of the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs, on her way to earning second-team All-Pacific Coast League and second-team All-CIF Division 1 honors.
Novotny, a sophomore, earned a reputation as a clutch goal-scorer from the midfield position for Coach Mike Hammond's Lightning. She scored two game-winning goals for Sage Hill, one off a free kick as the Lightning beat rival St. Margaret's in league for the first time in six years. The other game-winner was against Paloma Valley in the second round of the CIF Southern Section Division 5 playoffs. Novotny helped Sage (15-6-4) finish second in league and advance to the CIF quarterfinals for the first time since 2006. She was a first-team All-Academy League and first-team All-CIF Division 5 selection.
Corona del Mar
The only senior regularly on the defensive back line for the Sea Kings, Keasey was a glue for a CdM team that also missed players on defense at times due to injury. Coach Bryan Middleton said that the steady Keasey, who played all season, embraced her role as a team captain and provided leadership for the squad, which posted 11 shutouts. Keasey was a first-team All-Pacific Coast League selection.
Coach Jessica Perry called Barrios, a junior center midfielder, the Eagles' most passionate player. She also was one of the most versatile, able to play multiple positions with a high soccer IQ. Perry said that Barrios battled through a sprained ankle in the preseason to record close to 10 assists for Estancia (10-6-5), which finished second in the Orange Coast League and advanced to the CIF Southern Section Division 4 playoffs. Barrios, a team captain, was a first-team All-Orange Coast League selection. She also is a two-time Dream Team selection.
Corona del Mar
Sigband's versatility helped the Sea Kings, as the junior could be a creative midfielder but also could score goals from the forward position. She scored a big goal in regulation against Fountain Valley in the Division 1 playoffs, a game that CdM eventually won in a shootout. For the season, Sigband, a first-team All-Pacific Coast League and second-team All-CIF Division 1 selection, was third on CdM with five goals scored. Look for her to emerge even more next year as a senior. This is her second Dream Team selection.
Whitford, a gifted athlete, is probably known more for her volleyball talents, where she is also a Dream Team selection. But she spent her second year in goal for the Lightning soccer team and was a defensive leader for Sage Hill. She made an incredible save in the Lightning's game at St. Margaret's, leaping from the ground to make the save off a deflection. Tartans Coach Johnny Marmelstein called it one of the best he's seen in 29 years of coaching. Whitford also made 16 saves, including three in the shootout, as Sage pushed No. 3-seeded La Canada to the brink before falling in the CIF Southern Section Division 5 quarterfinals. She was a first-team All-Academy League and third-team All-CIF Division 5 selection. She also is a repeat Dream Team honoree.
Falasco, a sophomore, was a stopper for the Eagles. That she tied for the team lead with five goals from that position tells you how versatile she was for Estancia. She had the ability to dribble the ball all the way up the field and score. Perry said that every team the Eagles played asked about Falasco, who also earned first-team All-Orange Coast League honors. The team captain appears to have a bright future over the next two years as Estancia tries to get back to the top of league.
Corona del Mar
Stiver, bound for Oregon State, brought plenty of ability to the Sea Kings at the forward position. She also brought the passion and intensity that CdM needed at times. She battled through an ankle injury to make key plays in the second half of the season, tallying a goal and an assist in the comeback win over Northwood in the Pacific Coast League finale. Stiver finished the season with six goals, which tied for the team lead. She was a first-team All-Pacific Coast League selection.
Coach Tamiko Davila said that Hernandez, a senior center midfielder, was the glue for Costa Mesa (5-9-10, 0-5-5 in league). On a young team that featured eight freshman, Hernandez was able to make a difference at center back, center midfielder or even forward at times for the Mustangs. A first-team All-Orange Coast League selection, she provided stability during a rebuilding year. Davila said that Hernandez plans to join the United States Marine Corps after graduating from Costa Mesa High.
Corona del Mar
Westrup was arguably the best defender in the area when she was on the pitch for the Sea Kings. The junior, who has committed to the University of Virginia, was a gritty ball-winner who was able to use her deep knowledge of the game to aid CdM. She played perhaps her best game of the season in the Division 1 quarterfinal loss to Foothill, taking away scoring chance after scoring chance. She also was very dangerous on set pieces, either as a long-kick taker or the one in the box, always a threat to head the ball into the back of the net. Westrup, who was a second-team All-Pacific Coast League and third-team All-CIF Division 1 selection, had two goals and two assists on the season.