The match at Costa Mesa High started with a downpour.
This was before the rain even started falling.
Goals by Lisa Martinez and Rayleen Chavez in the opening minutes staked the Mustangs to a 2-0 victory over Calvary Chapel Thursday in an Orange Coast League girls’ soccer match.
The Mustangs (13-1-4, 5-0-1 in league) solidified their hold on first place in league play over the Eagles (6-3-5, 3-1-2).
Since a scoreless tie with Woodbridge on Jan. 3, Costa Mesa has strung together four straight wins. For first-year girls’ coach Jason Boyce — thrust into duty after two other head coaches fell through — the transition has been seamless.
“We’re trying to change the culture,” Boyce said. “Turn over a new leaf and not dwell on the past.”
Last season, the Mustangs finished 2-11-5 overall and second-to-last in the league at 2-6-2.
“The turnaround has been awesome,” Costa Mesa athletic director Sharon Uhl said. “The girls have really been responding to Jason’s style of coaching.”
A former Major League Soccer Draft pick at forward of the Colorado Rapids, Boyce heaped praise on assistant coach Gus Gomez, emphasizing their cooperation to spark this season’s success.
Boyce told his team beforehand that this was a statement game. The Mustangs did much of their talking early.
Costa Mesa first threatened at the 11-minute mark, setting up a corner kick by sophomore midfielder Erin Rodriguez. The attempt sailed long, but a minute later, Martinez rifled a shot past goalkeeper Alex Dimel for the 1-0 lead.
Only seconds later, Chavez, a senior captain, weaved through the Calvary Chapel defense, and sent a blooper into the net to double the margin.
Chavez said she prefers to lead by example to energize her teammates.
“Overall, our mentality is different [from last season],” she said. “Everyone wants to play, and we all get along.”
The floodgates had figuratively opened. On cue, they literally did, dumping heavy rain. Players started slipping and passes rarely connected for both sides for the rest of the half.
Costa Mesa defenders Jami Chavez and Vanessa Carrillo impeded the rare Cavalry Chapel threats. Carrillo, in particular, forced sophomore midfielder Emily Stocker to miss an attempt wide left in the 35th minute.
“Our defense has been shutting people down all year,” Boyce said. With his midfielders and defenders locking down the middle of the pitch, the Mustangs, he continued, were able to “control the pace and force pressure.”
The elements settled in the second half, allowing the Eagles a few opportunities to slash the lead in half. Costa Mesa sophomore goalkeeper Aubrey Hallman blocked a long run with a slide tackle in the 42nd minute.
Hallman later walled up with a defender on the left post to prevent a cross from entering. In the 48th minute, Calvary Chapel co-captain Elizabeth Radmilovich biffed a shot off the side of her foot to miss wide right.
Cavalry Chapel had scored 12 goals in the month of January prior to Thursday. However, the top scorers in Radmilovich and fellow co-captain Isabella Beortegui never found a groove. The Eagles have yet to score against Costa Mesa, tying the Mustangs 0-0 on Dec. 13.
That stalemate remains the only league blemish for the Mustangs. With four matches remaining, they hold a two-match advantage over the second-place Eagles.
Boyce sees this season as building a winning foundation for the program. He loses only four seniors — with Rayleen Chavez and Martinez the only starters — and expresses excitement over his underclassmen and middle schoolers.