At the beginning of the month, Capistrano Valley was ranked among the best girls' soccer teams in the Southern Section. With a week to go in the regular season, the sixth-ranked Cougars were 5-1-1, battling for first place in the tough South Coast League.
Then they lost their final three league games, finished third and got a most unwelcome consolation prize: a first-round playoff game against Marina.
Top-seeded Marina, which can make the best teams look bad, sent visiting Capistrano Valley reeling with a 6-0 Division I victory Saturday in front of about 500.
Marina (18-0-1), the two-time defending Division I champion, easily extended its unbeaten streak to 58 games. The Vikings will play Chino Don Lugo, a 1-0 winner over North Torrance, in the second round Thursday.
"They're the best," Capistrano Valley Coach John Bolger said. "They're the best team I've seen this year. They just take advantage of your mistakes; they create stuff and they knock it around real good."
Marina, playing with its usual poise and power, quickly took control. Thirteen minutes into the game, sweeper Marcy Crouch knocked in a free kick from 20 yards into the upper right corner.
Then Cassie Campbell took over, scoring three goals in a 12-minute span. Campbell, who has 22 goals this season, is usually marked tightly, but she was able to slip away several times.
"I usually have someone on my back," Campbell said. "They were marking me but I guess I moved."
Jessica Lyon set up Campbell's first goal with a perfect crossing pass to the far post. Capistrano Valley goalkeeper Shawna Draper went to the near post, and Campbell tapped in the ball at the 20-minute mark.
Seven minutes later, Campbell again scored an open-net goal set up by some nice passing. Jenny Benson started the play near midfield with a spin move to shake her defender, then passed to Crouch down the left sideline. Crouch passed it to the middle, and Megan Orach then dumped it to Campbell, who all but dribbled the ball into the goal.
At 32 minutes, Campbell got behind the defense after a free kick by Crouch and beat Draper one-on-one. It was Crouch's 19th assist of the season.
Marina midfielder Kristen Palmer scored her 24th and 25th goals of the season, five and 12 minutes into the second half.