NEWPORT BEACH — The Newport Harbor High girls' soccer team was on fire for the first few minutes of Thursday's Aliso Cup game.
The Sailors were taking it to visiting Palos Verdes, creating several scoring opportunities.
Coach Larry Draluck called it "amazing" soccer. Senior midfielder Natalie Swift said the team "killed it" at the beginning of the game.
But the Sea Kings didn't panic. Newport Harbor somehow lost its edge and lost, 3-1, in the pool-play game at Newport Harbor High.
The Sailors finish third in their three-team pool and play against JSerra at 8 a.m. Saturday, at Dana Hills High. That's a "Governor's Cup" division quarterfinal, akin to a bronze bracket in the 24-team tournament.
Draluck knows why the Sailors (1-2) will have to play the early game Saturday.
"[Palos Verdes] kind of woke up and took over the game, and we got back on our heels," Draluck said. "Our transition [game] is something we need to work on. It's early in the season and there's so much to work on in high school, technically and tactically. You need games in order to work on transition. You have to make mistakes so you can say, 'Hey, this is where we need to improve.' So these games are beneficial."
Junior forward Josie Jogwe scored her fifth goal of the young season for the Tars, who had a chance to go up early. Senior forward Mary Yeager crossed the ball across the goal to the left post, but a teammate couldn't knock it in. The ball bounced back across to the right, but Jogwe's shot was blocked.
From there, Palos Verdes became the aggressor. The Sea Kings, ranked No. 3 in the CIF Southern Section Division II poll, struck in the 12th minute when senior forward Christy Poropat split a trio of Newport defenders and scored.
Eight minutes later, the Sea Kings padded their lead after senior midfielder Elizabeth Caparis converted a cross from the right.
Down by two goals at halftime, the Sailors came out more aggressive in the second half after Palos Verdes lost senior defender Haley Nakata to a sprained ankle. It paid off in the 53rd minute, when Jogwe headed in a goal off a corner kick from Swift.
Swift said she's in her fourth year and fourth position with Newport Harbor after playing outside mid her freshman year, outside back her sophomore year and center defender last year. As a center midfielder Thursday, she provided a couple of nice second-half through balls to Jill Messersmith and Megan Khademi, although the Palos Verdes defense stopped both chances.
The Sailors shut down Palos Verdes in the second half behind defense from junior goalie Emily Browne (seven saves) and defenders Beth Barnard, Shannon Boler, Christie Ohlhaver and Courtney McIntosh. But the hosts couldn't score an equalizer, and the Sea Kings' Ally Garcia scored her team's third goal in stoppage time against a drawn-up Sailors squad.
"In the first 10 minutes, I thought we were going to go down a couple goals," Palos Verdes Coach Sean Lockhart said. "They were all over us. Fortunately we kind of held the fort down, and we were able to get back in the flow of things."
Khademi also provided tenacious midfield play for Newport Harbor.
Swift said she's confident the Sailors will get better, adding that team chemistry is strong.
"I think we're already getting better playing together," she said. "The biggest thing is confidence. I think as soon as we get the confidence to play, we're going to go places."