Nik Darrough had played club basketball and club soccer for as long as he could remember.
When he got to high school, he had to choose a path, with both being winter sports.
For the first two years, he played lower-level basketball at Corona del Mar High, but he had friends asking him to come back to the pitch.
Recent graduate Matt Katz and now seniors Wally Korbler and Jennings Torgelson managed to convince him. Before the start of his junior season, Darrough came out to the last day of tryouts. That would be all that Sea Kings coach Damien O’Brien needed to see to know that Darrough had the right stuff.
“We only had Wally in the tryouts last year, and I was wondering who was going to be the backup goalkeeper,” O’Brien said. “He came out to the last day of tryouts, and I saw him, and I was like, ‘Wow, this is going to be great. It’s going to work out perfect.’”
O’Brien viewed Darrough as an excellent shot-stopper, but his playing time was diminished as a junior when Korbler rattled off a prolonged shutout streak in nonleague play.
Darrough and Korbler had split time before during the club season, and that was a plan that the Sea Kings stuck to this season.
“This year, Damien gave us both the chance to show what we had,” Darrough said. “It was definitely a fun dynamic, where I go in for the first half, [Korbler] goes in for the second half, and we just do our best to win the game.”
It was a dynamic that worked well because the two goalkeepers had already shared the net for several years, beginning in middle school. They had learned not to get jealous of each other’s playing time and were happy when the other experienced success.
The Sea Kings (11-8) surrendered three or more goals twice this season. They held opponents to one goal or less on 10 occasions.
As a result of matchups and illness, Darrough wound up manning the net for the entirety of the Sea Kings’ two most important matches of the season.
Teammates rushed in to celebrate with Darrough when the final whistle blew in the Surf League second-place tiebreaking match. Darrough made nine saves in a 1-0 shutout victory over Los Alamitos, clinching CdM’s spot in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs.
The Griffins brought forth an onslaught of tests for Darrough to handle in the final 10 minutes of the contest, including several long throw-ins.
“A lot of them at the end there, I was just kind of surrounded by a mass of people,” Darrough said. “The shots would come through, and I wouldn’t see it until the last second. A pure reaction had to be made, especially on that last one where it was coming through my legs. I just had to swing my leg across at the last second, [and] then it went out for a goal kick.”
Darrough commended the efforts of center backs Zane Weaver and Carson Webb. Sean Dannelley, Thomas Glessing, Max Teteak and Evan Sellinger also contributed defensively.
The Sea Kings ran the table in the first half of Surf League play, but a three-game losing streak in the back half forced CdM into the play-in game. The last was a loss in double overtime to the Griffins. Weaver felt relief when the Sea Kings finalized their playoff berth.
“That was pretty crazy,” Weaver said. “After we won the second game [in two days against Los Alamitos], it was basically guaranteed that we were going to make CIF, and that was kind of the goal at the start of the season.
“We were just trying to make CIF again, and knowing that we actually made it and our season was a success, it was really nice. It was exciting.”
Servite beat CdM 2-0 in the first round. O’Brien called the Friars the best team that the Sea Kings have faced since he took over the program two years ago.
The Sea Kings coach will have to find new goalkeepers next season. Beyond the on-field contributions, O’Brien will miss Darrough’s dry sense of humor.
“Nik is very funny,” O’Brien said. “He has a dry sense of humor. Sometimes, he makes a joke, and you wonder, ‘Is he joking, or is he serious?’
“There isn’t a punchline, but it’s still funny.”
Growing up playing basketball, Darrough acquired an appreciation for the late Kobe Bryant, especially his Mamba Mentality. His all-time favorite sports moment was watching Bryant’s last game, when he went out in a blaze of glory by scoring 60 points.
Darrough said that people gravitated to the Mamba Mentality because it taught them to strive to do more.
“I guess just the drive,” Darrough said of the component that people grabbed onto. “What it kind of meant for people, kind of a chance to rise up from wherever you are. You can do this. With enough effort, anyone can accomplish anything.”
Born: Sept. 23, 2001
Hometown: Newport Beach
Height: 6 feet 2
Weight: 180 pounds
Coach: Damien O’Brien
Favorite food: Steak
Favorite movie: “Beverly Hills Cop”
Favorite athletic moment: Darrough saved a penalty kick in a championship match for his club team, the LA Galaxy Orange County Flight 1, in the 17-and-under division.
Week in review: The senior goalkeeper stopped nine shots in a 1-0 win for CdM over Los Alamitos on Feb. 6 in the Surf League second-place tiebreaking match at Huntington Beach High. The Sea Kings clinched a berth in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs as a result.
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