For much of last season, Mason Case went to Corona del Mar High boys' soccer matches, even though he was not going to play. He supported teammates, while a brace supported his fractured back.
Sitting for long periods was discomforting, yet Case showed up. He rehabilitated his back, hoping to work his way back to the team.
Case made it back just in time to suit up during a historical season. When the postseason began, he joined the team and the Sea Kings went on to win their first CIF Southern Section Division IV and CIF Southern Section Southern California Division II titles in school history.
The Sea Kings have a great shot to make another deep run in the playoffs. Case is a big reason why.
The midfielder is healthy. The brace is off. Defenses are now bracing for Case.
The junior has recorded a goal in each of CdM's first five matches of the season. In the first four of those matches, he carried the team offensively.
Three standouts missed the beginning of the season for CdM, but Coach George Larsen knew he had someone he did not have for much of last season. Case was available for the start of the season last week and he displayed his scoring prowess.
Case scored game-winning goals twice on the road, first lifting the Sea Kings past Laguna Hills, 1-0, in the season opener, and then past Estancia, 2-1, two days later. At the end of the week, Case added two goals and three assists in CdM's 8-1 road victory against Sage Hill School.
"I knew that I was going to have to step up and play good," Case said.
Case elevated his play and kept the second-ranked team in the state by ESPN RISE unbeaten.
Out of CdM's first 12 goals of the season, Case helped produce nine of them. He totaled five goals and assisted on four of others. Keep in mind the Sea Kings (4-0-1) competed without Jack McBean, Grady Howe and Matt Francini during the stretch.
The three players returned to CdM this week after playing with their respective club teams at the U.S. Soccer Development Academy Winter Showcase in Phoenix, Ariz.
Case is happy to have them back. He no longer has to be the one player to have a foot or head on practically every goal.
"[Case], as well as a couple of other players … [knew] that we were short some guys, he sensed he needed to step up his game," Larsen said.
"[Case is] a big piece for us."
Case did not play a big role to CdM's success last season, when he fractured his back before the season began. The injury sidelined him.
Two matches into the campaign, Case's season appeared over. He tried to give it a go, the back was unwillingly to cooperate.
"I really wanted to get out there and play," Case said, "but I knew that if I just keeping going to physical therapy that I'd be able to play in CIF, which was my main goal. That was what my motivation was, to play [in] CIF with all my friends."
Helping CdM get back to the top is what drives Case. He can be a difference maker.
Trying to duplicate last season's feats at CdM, going 27-1-1, and claiming section and regional crowns, will not be easy. The Sailors lost a star in Reed Williams to graduation.
Williams took his deadly shot to UCLA. Case has done his best to pick up the slack, tallying a team-best in goals (six) and assists (five).
"We're missing Reed," Case said, "but I feel we're strong defensively, which makes up for his role.
"We're definitely aiming [to repeat as champions]. We're just taking it one step at a time. [Pacific Coast League] first, then CIF, and then if the opportunity presents itself, then [regional]."
Case wants to be on the field from start to finish.