CdM's title fits just right

IRVINE — Someone dropped off a giant box near the Corona del Mar High bench. The players had no idea what was inside.

Coach Bryan Middleton knew and he also knew his players would thank him after Tuesday girls' soccer match.

The Sea Kings just had to beat Woodbridge at Alton Athletic Park in Irvine on a chilly night and what was inside the box was theirs to keep.

After all, the Sea Kings needed something to keep them warm afterward. Middleton had long-sleeved shirts made with "PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE 2011 CHAMPIONS" on them that might just do the job.

Annie Alvarado helped the Sea Kings end things on a fitting note.

The midfielder scored on two long-range free kicks, the final one in the 72nd minute was the game-winner and lifted CdM to a 2-1 victory and clinched the program's second league title in three seasons.

Before the team could celebrate, Middleton was a busy man. He handed out the shirts before the players gathered for a team photo.

One player asked if the shirt might shrink. Middleton just shook his head.

Nothing could possibly minimize the words on the shirt. The Sea Kings are outright league champs for the first time under Middleton, who is in his ninth season at the helm.

No team has been able to knock off CdM in league as it improved to 7-0-1. Two league matches are left and Middleton has a message for the next two opponents.

"We're not going to let off the gas," said Middleton, whose team is positioning itself for a high seed in the CIF Southern Section Division I playoffs.

The Sea Kings (13-2-4), ranked No. 9 in the Division I coaches' poll, have been unbeatable in their 10 matches.

Woodbridge managed to record a goal, snapping CdM's five-game streak in which it held the opposition scoreless. Goals against Wake Forest-bound goalkeeper Lindsey Luke are hard to come by.

The goal by Woodbridge striker Grayson Galbraith in the 62nd minute tied the match at 1-1. At no time was Middleton worried about the Warriors ruining his championship shirt day.

"I needed to get the win," said Middleton, especially after his good friend, who owns a print shop, made 48 league championship shirts in like a day.

Middleton moved three players back to their starting positions. CdM was back in championship form.

Hannah Rome was at stopper, Sydney Raguse at midfield and Allyson Brahs at striker.

But it was Alvarado breaking the Warriors' hearts.

Woodbridge (4-3-1 in league) needed to beat the Sea Kings to keep its league title hopes alive. Alvarado made sure to end them.

From 35 yards out and near the Warriors' sideline, Alvarado prepared to take a free kick. The sophomore had already scored late in the first half on a free kick from 30 yards out to give CdM a 1-0 lead.

The latest free kick was for the league crown. No. 2 hurt Woodbridge for the second time.

Goalkeeper Lauren Wooden lost the ball as it traveled to her left and found the bottom corner of the net. Woodbridge Coach Tim Woodcock said, "What can you do?"

Woodcock is right. Set pieces are Alvarado's specialty.

Out of Alvarado's seven goals this season, Middleton said a handful of them have been recorded on free kicks. Alvarado had extra incentive to put CdM past the only team that managed to tie the Sea Kings in league play.

"I promised I'd give them the practice off [today] if they won [Tuesday night], and she had to score a goal," said Middleton, knowing the biggest score of the evening was an outright league title.

Getting a shirt recognizing the team reaching its goal from the start of the season was just a bonus.

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