Daily Pilot Cup: Eastbluff has eye on crown

Daily Pilot

COSTA MESA — Coach Patrick Senske knows his Daily Pilot Cup team is young.

The Eastbluff Elementary third- and fourth-grade bronze division girls actually don't have any fourth graders at all. They're almost all third-graders, with two second-graders — Nikki Senske and Paige Wood — also in the mix.

But what Eastbluff may lack in physical stature, it makes up for in speed. The girls showed that to College Park on Saturday at Costa Mesa High, in a bronze division quarterfinal match.

Behind four goals from Natalie Hueston, Eastbluff sped its way past College Park, 6-0, and into today's semifinals. Eastbluff will play in a semifinal at 11:30 a.m.; the division final is set for 3 p.m. at field No. 6 of the Costa Mesa Farm Sports Complex.

"They're very excited to play for their school," Patrick Senske said. "They're playing well together and they're having a great time. We're small, but we're kind of fast. I'm just proud of them, because the last two or three games we've gotten knocked around. But they keep getting up and keep fighting. A lot of tears, but they recover quick."

One of the bigger girls Eastbluff played against Saturday was College Park goalie Yessenia Ramirez. She made 11 saves and kept her team in the game early.

"It's really hard for us," said Nikki Senske, who scored one goal off a throw-in from Hueston. "We have to go against the big people. She was a big goalie and I never knew I was going to score on her. I think we're just trying our hardest. We keep trying and trying."

Hueston scored the first goal just four minutes in the game, and again in the 16th minute for a 2-0 Eastbluff lead. It was extended to 3-0 by halftime.

An own-goal by College Park extended the lead to 4-0, and Hueston scored again on a perfectly angled shot into the left corner. Gabi Brandt then scored the final goal for Eastbluff.

Wood, one of the two second-graders, played tenacious defense in the first half before moving up to create scoring opportunities in the second half.

"It was fun," Wood said. "It's very lucky for us [second-graders to be on this team]."

Goalie Sydney Little made two saves for Eastbluff. Megan Hartog kept the ball moving on offense and Amanda Calhoun also shined on defense. Elena Kelly, Kayla Daruty and Kaelyn Gosse all contributed to the team win as well.

Patrick Sense is a coaching veteran at the tournament. His older daughters Hailey, Riley and Katie all played in the Pilot Cup. Hailey and Riley are now juniors at Corona del Mar High, and Katie is a freshman at CdM.

His current Eastbluff team has now outscored opponents by a combined 16-0 in its three games.

College Park, coached by Taylor Strook, was bolstered by the strong play of Jennifer Herrera, Kate Castillo, Zya Lopez and Ashley Mojica, among others.

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