CORONA DEL MAR — Coach Bryan Middleton joked that the Corona del Mar High girls' soccer team might have found its lucky charm.
"I think it's a flying panda bear," said Middleton while pointing to a balloon of a panda, which a couple of players on the bench took turns holding and petting.
The balloon was for Kiana Schwenk-Mueller, who Middleton said was hospitalized recently after a cyst burst that led to bleeding into her abdomen. A day after being released from the hospital, Schwenk-Mueller showed up in street clothes to support her teammates.
The sophomore had the panda balloon on a leash, so it was not flying away.
The same could not be said about the Sea Kings in their Pacific Coast League opener. They soared to a 4-1 victory against Northwood.
The Timberwolves were supposed to challenge CdM (7-2-3, 1-0-0 in league), ranked No. 21 in the state by ESPN RISE. They did not even come close.
The Sea Kings scored the match's first four goals before Northwood tapped in a goal with three minutes left. Alexa Mamatas, Allyson Brahs, Brittney Brown and Molly Keasey each scored for CdM.
The defense, led by Sydney Raguse, Alana Hunter and Amanda Stephenson, made goalkeeper Lindsey Luke's job easy. Luke finished with a handful of saves before exiting in the 75th minute.
"I would say it's a perfect start to league," Middleton said. "[We] held possession and made the most of our scoring opportunities."
The Sea Kings have been on a scoring frenzy in their first two matches of 2011. They beat Estancia, 4-0, in a nonleague contest on Tuesday.
Two days later, CdM was on track for another 4-0 shutout until Northwood's Erin Christ scored in the 77th minute.
Through a dozen matches, CdM has outscored the opposition, 26-6. The Sea Kings are dangerous offensively, which Middleton said was not always the case the past two seasons.
"Right now, things are just clicking for us in all areas of the field," Middleton said.
"We look forward to league. The girls want a PCL title. We want to play like this every single game."
Starting league against Northwood (4-3-7, 0-1-0) was ideal for CdM. The Timberwolves used to be Pacific Coast League title contenders before they moved to the Sea View League in the 2006-07 season.
The Timberwolves have returned to the Pacific Coast League. They know they have to get past CdM for a shot at a league crown.
If the Sea Kings continue their stellar play, they are the favorites to claim their second league title in three seasons. The Sea Kings came out and took control from the onset against Northwood.
Eight minutes in, the left-footed Mamatas used her other foot to put CdM up, 1-0. Scoring chances kept coming for the Sea Kings.
After missing on four in the first half, they put away their opportunities in the final 40 minutes. Mamatas assisted on two goals.
The sophomore sent a cross toward the far post, toward Brahs. She finished the play by heading in a goal in the 43rd minute, giving CdM a 2-0 lead. The rout was on and Northwood Coach Chris Woolley began looking forward to the next league meeting against the Sea Kings on Jan. 25.
"We've got four games before that and then we see them again," Woolley said. "The last time we were in this league we were one of the top two [programs].
"Hopefully, we're still one [of the] two."
Early on in league, CdM is clearly No. 1.