CORONA DEL MAR — Jack Gorab texted back and forth with his mother in between flights to North Carolina last Friday.
While his Corona del Mar High boys' soccer team played that day, Gorab was en route with teammate Mason Case to an elite soccer camp at Duke University. They wanted updates on how the Sea Kings were doing.
Gorab's mother, Lisa, sent one last one. When Gorab and Case landed in North Carolina, they learned the final score.
The Sea Kings' 29-match unbeaten streak dating back to last season was over.
"Bummed," Gorab said is how he and Case felt when they read the text that Woodbridge pulled off a 3-2 Pacific Coast League upset at CdM, ranked No. 3 in the state by ESPN RISE at the time.
"I think it was good for us to come back and try even harder."
Two days after returning home, Gorab and Case had their opportunity to make a difference against University on Wednesday.
Case, a striker, used his feet in the opponent's territory, near the CdM sideline to create a late scoring chance. On the ensuing throw-in, Gorab used his head to get the Sea Kings back to their winning ways.
Gorab headed in the game-winner in the 74th minute, lifting host CdM to a 1-0 victory against University. The Sea Kings and Trojans shared the league title last season.
What separated the two programs in their first meeting of this season was a precise long throw-in by Nick Curci and one of the best finishes you will see on the high school level.
Gorab closed things out for CdM (10-1-5, 3-1-0 in league), which dropped to No. 9 in the state and No. 4 in the CIF Southern Section Division III coaches' poll. The Sea Kings went to one of the smallest players on the field, knowing the 5-foot-6 Gorab could get free deep in the box.
Gorab did just that and then leaped to his right before redirecting the ball toward the upper-left corner of the net for the goal.
Coach George Larsen has used Gorab at practically every position on the field after CdM lost standout players Jack McBean and Matt Francini to other soccer commitments and with Grady Howe sidelined with an injury. Larsen can rely on Gorab to score.
"He's the kid who understands what the game needs and he understands what his role needs to be in the game," Larsen said. "He could sense that maybe it's time to put the team on his shoulders and getting that finish, like 'I'm going and I'm getting this one.'
"Coming off our first loss of the year, it's about getting back on the right track and picking our heads up and getting back to work."
The Sea Kings returned to the field extra motivated. They had Gorab and Case back, two of their top players.
Gorab remembers how University was the one team that knocked off CdM all of last season, the only blemish to the Sea Kings' CIF Southern Section Division IV and CIF Southern California Regional title runs.
The Sea Kings appeared on the verge of jumping on the Trojans early. University (2-2-0 in league) kept the match scoreless, much of it due to goalkeeper Corbin Stanger's play and half dozen saves.
Connor Gaal, CdM's keeper, stood out as well in securing the Sea Kings' sixth shutout of the season.
As the two teams failed to score, frustration led to physical play in the second half. The head official warned players on both sides, including Case and Gorab.
The Trojans continued to take their shots, not on goal, but on Case. The Sea Kings played through it, figuring one of their numerous scoring chances would eventually result in a goal.
That chance came with six minutes left to play as the Sea Kings earned a throw-in from their sideline. Larsen had warned Curci before to stop throwing the ball right to the keeper.
Larsen did not need to remind Curci again. Curci found the head of a flying Gorab and he put it away.
"Finally to convert, [it took] a little bit of luck," Gorab said. "I think we deserved it."