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Newport Harbor girls’ soccer blanks rival CdM in Battle of the Bay

Newport Harbor teammates hug Laine Briggs, left, after she scored a goal against Corona del Mar.
Newport Harbor teammates hug Laine Briggs, left, after she scored a goal against Corona del Mar during the Battle of the Bay match at Newport Harbor High School on Tuesday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

The Battle of the Bay lived up to its name on Tuesday as Newport Harbor High School girls’ soccer hosted Corona del Mar.

In a game that saw yellow cards, crunching tackles and a coach’s dismissal, Newport Harbor dominated its rival CdM 3-0.

“It’s why you do high school sports,” Newport Harbor head coach Justin Schroeder said. “To win a rivalry game within your city, within your community, I think it’s one of the pinnacles of high school sports … I’m just glad for Newport Harbor and our seniors who probably thought they weren’t going to have a season.”

Things got testy in the first half when senior Avery Doherty of CdM (4-2-1), already on a yellow card for an earlier sliding challenge, collided with Antonella Russo of Newport Harbor (5-1-1) in the midfield. Players, fans and coaches from both sides let out their opinions, and after some deliberation the center referee brandished two yellow cards, one each to CdM assistant coach Mark Kirsch and head coach Bryan Middleton.

“It was a great tackle,” Kirsch said. “I said it was one of the best tackles of the game, play through it. Then he came over and gave me a yellow. I went to sit down and he said, ‘No, you have to leave.’”

Newport Harbor's Antonella Russo reacts after scoring a goal against CdM.
Newport Harbor’s Antonella Russo reacts after scoring a goal against CdM.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

One minute before, in the 37th minute, Newport Harbor sophomore Laine Briggs chested down a long ball, took a touch beyond the CdM backline and chased down her ball before striking it off the post and in to double the Sailors’ lead 2-0.

“We never want a team to feel too comfortable early,” Schroeder said. “We always try to come out strong and dictate our pace and make people adjust to us.”

Newport Harbor had the early possession in the match, dictating the tempo and putting pressure on the CdM backline. But the visitors saw the first good chance of the afternoon when some quick interplay at the top of the box led to a Isabella Vigeland right-footed shot that forced a diving save from Sailors goalkeeper Jessica Gardner to put the ball behind for a corner.

“We had pockets of play,” Middleton said. “We put that in the back of the net and it’s 1-0, maybe it changes the tone a little bit.”

Newport Harbor's Brielle Benedict goes up for a header against Corona del Mar's Madeline Rosen and goalie Sydney Walls.
Newport Harbor’s Brielle Benedict goes up for a header against Corona del Mar’s Madeline Rosen and goalie Sydney Walls.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Three minutes later, Newport Harbor junior Brielle Benedict struck a shot from the left wing that rattled the crossbar. The Sailors maintained the pressure, and eight minutes later found a breakthrough.

Russo stole the ball in the center circle, moved forward before laying a perfectly weighted through ball to senior Kenna Robar, who chipped it over the sliding CdM goalkeeper for the 1-0 lead.

“I felt the pressure on my back and I just picked my head up,” Russo said. “I put all my faith in her, I trusted her to get it in. It was a beautiful goal.”

In the 54th minute, Russo got a goal of her own. Finding herself in open space 25 yards from goal, the sophomore took a chance and fired a rocket with her right foot into the top corner to make it a 3-0 game.

“That was a brilliant shot,” Middleton said. “She absolutely hammered that thing. No high school boys’ keeper is going to save that thing. It was a beautiful goal.”

Newport Harbor's Antonella Russo, left, congratulates Laine Briggs after she scored a goal against Corona del Mar.
Newport Harbor’s Antonella Russo, left, congratulates Laine Briggs after she scored a goal against Corona del Mar.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

CdM got chances of its own later in the second half from free kicks, but the Newport Harbor backline held firm. With four seniors out of Newport Harbor’s five defenders and goalkeeper, experience came out on top.

“They know how to keep this game under control,” Schroeder said. “We’ve done a very good job of limiting goals this year.”

Newport Harbor will now look to take its momentum from the rivalry win into the remainder of the season, starting with a game against Marina on Thursday. Meanwhile, CdM will take on Edison on Thursday night.

“I think the rivalry brings out the feistiness — that drive in every player,” Russo said. “We worked as a team and we got the win that we deserved.”

Corona del Mar's head coach Bryan Middleton discusses two yellow cards given by the referee, who chose not to give his name.
Corona del Mar’s head coach Bryan Middleton discusses two yellow cards given by the referee, who chose not to give his name. .
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

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