Newport Harbor girls’ soccer upsets Capistrano Valley
Up by two goals at halftime, all that remained for the Newport Harbor High School girls’ soccer team was to ensure that the dam would not break.
Senior goalkeeper Emily Park — and those defending in front of her — put up a suitable levee to make the lead stand up, as the Sailors defeated Capistrano Valley 3-2 on Wednesday in the second round of the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs at Davidson Field.
“I just really like how far we’ve come because we started out a little bit rough in the [nonleague games], but then we really just started working on ourselves and our team camaraderie,” Park said. “We kind of just pushed ourselves. We pushed ourselves more than we ever have in any of the previous seasons.
“I have been on all levels, and I’ve seen the drive coming up from the years before, and now we’re all just here and we all just want this.”
Sadie Hoch and Isabelle Whittaker scored goals for the Sailors, who were also the beneficiary of an own goal in the first half and went into the break holding a 3-1 advantage on the scoreboard.
Newport Harbor (14-9-4) pulled off the upset at home, as Capistrano Valley (19-2-3) finished the season ranked fifth in the Division 1 poll. The Wave League-champion Sailors were unranked at season’s end.
“I think we’re just confident because we just keep winning, we keep wanting to win,” Whittaker said. “You just want to keep that feeling and keep going, especially with how many seniors there are, I think they really just want to make this the best last year that they can have.”
After earning wins over West Hills Chaminade and Capistrano Valley, two teams with a combined five losses on the season, the Sailors now face a challenge of a different kind. Newport Harbor will go on the road for the first time in the playoffs on Saturday when it plays at No. 4-seeded Villa Park (18-3-2), a side that has yet to concede a goal in two postseason matches against Riverside King and Claremont.
With Stella Gaffney, Emmie Degen, Delaney Gahm, Ally Thomas and Laine Briggs among those defending in the back, Park stopped six of eight shots on target for the game, including three of four she faced in the second half.
The Cougars crashed the net as they looked to rally, and in the 52nd minute, Park proved to be more than a figurative wall when she came out on the better end of a collision with Melina Livadas. Both players were able to continue.
Just three minutes later, Gracie Haley played a ball in for Lexie Livingstone over the top of the defense. Park was brave and did not shy away from contact, coming off her line to meet Livingstone, who had slipped in behind the back line and slid onto the lofted offering, but the Sailors’ goalkeeper made the save.
“She’s made some big saves,” Newport Harbor coach Justin Schroeder said. “One of the things we always say is … soccer comes down to making plays, and Emily’s been making plays during this whole playoff run we’re in.”
Capistrano Valley closed the gap in the 68th minute, Livadas providing the shallow cross in from the left side that was received by Abby Haley, and she tapped it over to Kate Armbrust, who made it 3-2.
The message vocalized by the Sailors’ coaching staff in the closing moments was, “It’s OK to suffer.”
“It’s kind of the nature of soccer, where there are just moments in the game where it just gets really tough,” Schroeder elaborated. “Within those moments, that doesn’t mean that you’re playing poorly. That doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong. The girls have to understand that’s part of the game, and to suffer and get through those moments are big deals.”
Hoch scored the game’s first goal for Newport Harbor in the 11th minute, one that was answered just four minutes later by Capistrano Valley’s Lauren Longworth. The Sailors regained the lead when Whittaker scored off a throw-in, and the own goal provided a cushion for Newport Harbor.
“That was what we needed,” Hoch said of her early goal, which was assisted by Sam Wallis. “We talked about just getting that edge on them, and that’s what we did. It was a good start.”
Capistrano Valley had come into the match riding a 10-game winning streak.
“[Losses] sting, but that’s the end, so that stings a little bit more than the other loss that we had,” Capistrano Valley coach Jason Sorrell said. “We threw everything in the second half at them. I don’t think we could have done any more. I think we just shot ourselves in the foot in the first half.”
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