COSTA MESA — The visiting sideline erupted in cheers as the final whistle blew Tuesday at Jim Scott Stadium.
Neither Laguna Beach nor Estancia could find the back of the net in the Orange Coast League girls’ soccer match. A tie still is more satisfactory to the team in first place than the team trying to gain ground.
“We needed to win,” Estancia Coach Jessica Perry said after watching her team’s chances for a third league title in four years diminish.
The Eagles will have to battle just to make the CIF Southern Section Division IV playoffs. Following Tuesday’s tie, Estancia (7-7-6, 2-1-4 in league) dropped to fourth place in the league.
Only three of the teams in the six-team league are guaranteed CIF berths. With three games left, those top three teams are the Breakers (3-0-4 in league), Godinez and Calvary Chapel. Calvary Chapel (2-0-5 in league) leaped over Estancia by beating Saddleback on Tuesday.
Laguna Beach was bigger and often more physical in Tuesday’s game. Perry saw her team get frustrated at times.
“I’m glad my girls battle,” Perry said. “They fight hard. We try to win 50-50 balls against a girl who’s a foot taller than us. The size definitely hurts us, but we can’t make excuses anymore. We just need to get it done.”
Estancia’s chances might have improved in the first half when Laguna freshman goalie Kylie George was knocked out of the action. The Eagles’ Marlene Calderon was chasing a nice through ball from Alondra Guzman when she collided into George full speed in the box.
George got kicked in the side of the head and may have suffered a mild concussion, Breakers Coach Bill Rolfing said after the match. But he put in backup senior goalie Torrie Ornelas and the Breakers didn’t seem to miss a beat.
Rolfing credited defenders Sarah Hewlett, Tessa Hopper and Amy Hewlett for making plays on defense. Sarah Hewlett, a junior, marked Estancia senior forward Heather Flores for much of the match.
Both teams had chances midway through the second half, minutes apart. Laguna senior midfielder Marina Paul got alone in front of the goal, but her shot was off the right post. Moments later, in the 56th minute, Estancia sophomore Haley Flores saw her shot from the right side of the box also go off the right post.
Perry brought up standout defender Alba Barrios in the closing minutes, trying to get the goal, but neither team seriously challenged at the end. Senior goalie Ferny Perez made six saves for Estancia.
“The teams in the league must have good defenses,” said Rolfing, whose Breakers are trying for their first league title in program history. “It’s all low-scoring with Godinez, Calvary, Laguna and Estancia. A lot of draws — but we didn’t lose it.”
The Breakers, who dealt the Eagles their only loss in league Jan. 10, stayed unbeaten in their last 11 matches. They haven’t lost in 2012.
The tie felt like a loss for the hosts, who are running out of time. Estancia plays at Calvary Chapel in another crucial match on Thursday.
Estancia has scored multiple goals in just one league match, the 6-1 blowout of rival Costa Mesa on Jan. 24.
“Offensively, we just haven’t found our niche yet,” Perry said. “We haven’t been able to get into that groove. We scored a bunch of goals against Costa Mesa, and it’s just been slim pickings since then.”