The Newport Harbor High girls’ soccer team opened Sunset Conference play Thursday night with a home crossover match against Huntington Beach.
Technically the Sailors are in the Wave League, and the Oilers are in the Surf League. But don’t tell that to Newport Harbor coach Justin Schroeder. He said he considers each of his team’s crossover matches to also be league matches.
Surf League teams Huntington Beach, Edison, Corona del Mar and Los Alamitos are all in CIF Southern Section Division 1, just like the defending Wave League champion Sailors.
“We’re playing four Division 1 teams in a row, and that’s going to move rankings in different directions,” Schroeder said of the crossover matches.
Newport Harbor got off to a good start, topping Huntington Beach 3-1.
Junior Reese Bodas and senior team captains Nicole Laz and Sadie Pitchess all scored goals for the Sailors (14-2), ranked No. 6 in Division 1. Laz’s goal came on a penalty kick in the 56th minute, and it gave Newport Harbor the lead and momentum.
Bodas’ pass had gone to senior striker Skylynn Rodriguez, who leads Newport Harbor with 12 goals this season. Rodriguez met quick-approaching Huntington Beach sophomore goalkeeper Riley Urquiza near the top of the 18-yard box, and got off a header before a violent collision.
The referee issued Urquiza a red card after the dangerous play, and Laz put away the penalty kick to give the Sailors a 2-1 lead. Rodriguez reentered the match, but she held an ice pack to her mouth after she said she was struck in the face.
“When I fell down, the first thing I thought was, ‘Oh my God, I lost my teeth,’” Rodriguez said. “I got to the ball first, and she just came at me.”
Huntington Beach (3-5-3) was put in a tough position, as coach Raul Ruiz said that backup goalkeeper Mack Stenstrom was out sick. Senior Camila Foster, who typically plays forward, was put in goal.
“We never thought that it would come down to that, you know?” said Ruiz, whose Oilers have a crossover match at Fountain Valley on Tuesday at 3 p.m.
With a player down for the remainder of the match, the Oilers actually held off the Sailors until the 74th minute. A cross from Laz was kept in the zone by sophomore Emmie Degen. The ball found the feet of Pitchess, who buried a goal into the right corner.
Degen is one of a few new players in the midfield this season, along with juniors Ande Siegel and Gigi Davila.
“I think we’ve been playing really well as a team, even with the new players in the middle,” Pitchess said. “We’ve been connecting well ... This was a playoff type of game. Everyone [in the Surf League is] a good Division 1 team.”
Junior goalkeeper Itzia Rivera made four saves for Newport Harbor, which was also anchored defensively by junior center backs Samara Golan and Jenna McConnaughey.
Bodas, a Boise State commit, scored on junior Kenna Robar’s assist to give the Sailors a 1-0 lead in the 28th minute. The Oilers responded just after halftime, as a buildup from senior captain Gabriella Rizzo and senior Cina Wilson led to freshman Ashley Fujimori’s goal in the 43rd minute.
“We definitely don’t want to give up a goal at that time, but we found ways to come back,” said Schroeder, whose team plays a crossover match at Edison on Tuesday at 5 p.m. “We know what we have. I think even when things like that happen, we have a group that doesn’t put their heads down, doesn’t get frustrated and start pointing fingers about things. It’s just, let’s get back to work and do all of the stuff we did to get the first goal, and I thought we did.”
Support our sports coverage by becoming a digital subscriber.