For much of the early afternoon, the Costa Mesa St. Joachim Catholic School girls’ third- and fourth-grade Bronze Division team asserted itself in chasing a soccer ball around a field.
The Sea Kings successfully defended a one-goal lead for the final 43 minutes of Saturday’s quarterfinal match against Costa Mesa Sonora Elementary in the Daily Pilot Cup youth soccer tournament. St. Joachim won the contest by a score of 2-1.
Far from winding down, if anything, the girls from St. Joachim turned up the energy after the match, breaking into song with a spirited rendition of their favorite chant.
Hand-in-hand in a makeshift circle, they concluded their celebration with the following line: “To the east, to the west, Sea Kings are the best. Go Sea Kings.”
All of the game’s scoring came in a flurry following the opening whistle. Just two minutes into the match, Sonora’s Valerie Menendez scored on a right-to-left cross from Bella Frasier.
Sonora’s lead would be short-lived, as Cece Ball threw herself into a shot and scored from 25 yards away in the fifth minute. After the game, Ball was happy to talk, but it was with regard to a growing tradition at St. Joachim. The team has worn rainbow socks in each of the past two years.
“They’re rainbow,” Ball said of what she liked about the socks, adding that she is a fan of tradition. “I really like them because they’re so colorful.”
As different as the colors of the rainbow are, so too was the manner in which St. Joachim scored its second goal. Madison Willard beat the defense in tight quarters near the left post, and she found enough daylight to give the Sea Kings a 2-1 lead in the seventh minute.
Asked where she learned to dribble like that, Willard said her father, Brad. A nearby parent commented, “Good answer,” as Brad Willard is the team’s coach.
The St. Joachim defense was tasked with holding the lead. The back line of Jeanette Schultz, Isabella Warmington and Kate Raney held Sonora to a single shot on goal until halftime.
Sonora made a valiant effort to knot up the score in the second half, sending seven shots in the direction of the net and putting four of them on target. On one attempt, St. Joachim goalkeeper Blake Shanahan came out nearly to the top of the box to challenge a shot from Menendez, and she blocked it.
“It’s fun just being aggressive in goal,” said Shanahan, who had five saves. “It’s fun just having the opportunity to be in that position.”
In the 32nd minute, Sonora was awarded a penalty kick after a hand ball was called against St. Joachim. Natalie Hernandez stepped up to take the penalty kick, but her shot ricocheted about halfway up the left post and stayed out.
Menendez had another opportunity on the rush in the 47th minute, but her shot skipped across the goal mouth and wide of the far post.
“It came down to the final [moments], and we couldn’t make the goal,” Sonora coach Trinidad Hernandez said. “I’m proud of the girls. They did great. They played until the end, so they were tired. I understand that. Too bad we didn’t go to the next round.”
St. Joachim went on to defeat Costa Mesa Whittier 2-1 in a Bronze Division semifinal.
The girls’ third- and fourth-grade Bronze Division championship match will feature St. Joachim versus Huntington Beach Pegasus School at 1 p.m. on Sunday. The game will be played on Field 2B at Jack R. Hammett Sports Complex.
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