The number on his jersey also represents his ideal number of goals scored against him.
For Corona del Mar High junior boys’ soccer goalkeeper Wally Korbler, both numbers are zero.
Zero is the number of goals that Korbler gave up in a four-match stretch early in the season, which saw the Sea Kings earn a 2-0 win over Brea Olinda, a 3-0 win over JSerra, a 2-0 verdict over Estancia and a 1-0 victory over Tesoro. All four victories came in an eight-day span.
Korbler split time with fellow junior Nik Darrough in goal against Brea Olinda on Nov. 30, a match which saw him suffer a right thumb injury after he was cleated. Since then, Korbler has still managed to start every match. He went the whole way in the next three matches, earning a shutout each time.
Even as a junior, Korbler believes it is his time to shine as the Sea Kings’ goalkeeper. He waited his turn, backing up then-senior Campbell Sheppard as a sophomore.
“He’s doing well,” first-year CdM coach Damien O’Brien said. “I feel really sorry for [Darrough], but when [Korbler] is playing that good, to get him into that kind of rhythm is what we need … He’s just been so dominant back there. It was hard to take him out.”
Sheppard was just one of several seniors to graduate, and the Sea Kings also lost their coach when George Larsen resigned after nine seasons. O’Brien stepped in.
“I think honestly everyone thought this year would be one of those throwaway years,” Korbler said. “We have a new coach, we’re moving into a new league [the Surf League] and we lost a bunch of seniors last year. But I think we’ve kind of shocked everyone. Our new coach, his play style has been really working for us. This year, we changed our formation … With the formation that we’re playing, we have Matt [Katz] sitting behind Niko [Urban] and Aidan Holmes playing through balls to him. They’ve really stepped up and been able to put a lot of goals away.”
The Sea Kings (6-2) maybe surprised themselves, winning their first six matches before losing 3-2 at Aliso Niguel on Friday night. They also lost 1-0 at Mater Dei on Saturday, a tough back to back. The Monarchs are ranked tied for 10th in CIF Southern Section Division 1, and O’Brien said that Darrough came in to close out the match in the second half after Korbler got a bit banged up.
CdM has still been impressive early in the season, especially considering that seven of the Sea Kings’ eight matches so far have been on the road. Only the Brea Olinda match was at CdM.
Urban and Katz both have five goals for the Sea Kings, but the play of Korbler also has been big. He has been the anchor of a defense that also includes Chris Cruttenden, Zane Weaver, Grant Glessing, Sean Dannelly and Chris Flori. Glessing and Weaver are the center backs.
The victory at Estancia on Dec. 5 might have been the Sea Kings’ most impressive so far. Korbler made eight saves in a match that was played in heavy rain at the start.
“I couldn’t see anything in the first half because of the rain,” Korbler said. “When I was warming up I was doing awful, just dropping balls left and right. I was pretty miserable, to be honest. I was soaking wet and freezing … As soon as I got into the game, I just felt the need to play at the top of my game.
“My defense had a big role in that. They’ve been playing really solid lately. Ever since our first game against Long Beach Poly [a 4-3 win], that was a real eye opener that we need to be organized in the back. Teams haven’t been able to get through us, because we’ve had great chemistry through our defense.”
Korbler has at least one dedicated fan in his father, Walter. When Wally isn’t playing soccer, father and son are avid outdoorsmen, hunting and fishing in places like the Salton Sea, Paso Robles and Los Banos.
After a match on the pitch, Walter will give advice to his son. He knows what he’s talking about, as a former semipro midfielder for TSV 1860 Munich, a tier-two Bundesliga league team in Germany.
“He lectures me on everything I’ve done right and wrong, mostly wrong, but I understand where he’s coming from,” Wally Korbler said. “Sometimes I don’t want to hear it, but I accept it. He knows what’s best … and he has high expectations for me.”
Korbler continues to have high expectations for the Sea Kings and himself. CdM is in the Surf League along with Corona del Mar, Los Alamitos and Edison. The Chargers won the Sunset League title each of the past two seasons.
CdM feels that it can be competitive. After four Sunset Conference crossover matches, the Sea Kings begin Surf League play Jan. 11 with a home match against Edison.
Korbler’s emergence is a big reason why the Sea Kings are in the mix.
“We’re trying to keep a high line,” O’Brien said. “Wally is like a ‘sweeper keeper,’ and he’s very brave coming out.”
O’Brien has zero doubt about that.
Born: Oct. 8, 2001
Hometown: Newport Beach
Height: 5 feet 11
Weight: 160 pounds
Coach: Damien O’Brien
Favorite food: Korean food
Favorite movie: “WALL-E”
Favorite athletic moment: Making eight saves in a 2-0 shutout over Estancia on Dec. 5.