Sailors fall behind

NEWPORT BEACH — A CIF playoff berth is an accomplishment for the Newport Harbor High girls' soccer team.

The Sailors haven't made the postseason since 2005, and they're close this year.

"I think our magic number is one," Coach Larry Draluck said Tuesday night.

Unfortunately for the Sailors, Draluck can no longer use that same number when describing his team's Sunset League standing.

Los Alamitos sophomore forward Raya Young made sure of that, scoring twice in the second half as the Griffins won the battle for first place, 2-0, at Davidson Field.

The Sailors (6-9-3, 5-2 in league) drop to third as Los Alamitos and Edison are both 6-1 in league. Young stunned the hosts, as her goals came within a three-minute span.

In the 49th minute, she was there to clean up after a shot from the left by Callie Taylor caromed off sliding Newport Harbor goalie Emily Browne.

Los Alamitos Coach Steve Soler didn't want his team letting up.

"I preach to these girls, 'The first five minutes is important after you score,' " Soler said. "That's when a team is kind of off-balance; they're rattled a little bit because of the goal. That's when you've got to go at them again."

Young didn't quite need the whole five minutes. In the 51st minute, she knocked another goal in after a teammate crossed the ball from the right.

Newport Harbor is believed to have never won a league title in girls' soccer. The Sailors no longer control their own destiny in that regard, although their magic number is indeed one for clinching a CIF Southern Section Division I playoff berth.

With three league games remaining, the Tars only need another win or loss by Marina (2-4-1 in league) to clinch a spot in the postseason.

Draluck knows that Los Alamitos, ranked No. 3 in the Division I coaches' poll, is a dangerous team. The Griffins outscored the Sailors by a combined 5-0 in the teams' two league matches.

"It's hard to explain this to the players," Draluck said. "If I play Brazil, they're better than me. If I refuse to acknowledge that, then I'm being silly. This is not [legendary former Notre Dame Coach] Knute Rockne, where I go, 'Hey guess what? We're the best team. We'll beat the Lakers or we'll beat Brazil.'

"But if we do X, Y and Z, then we have a chance to win. We did it for, you know, 50 minutes [today]. But when they scored the goal, I saw people doubting."

The Sailors try to manage the game, especially on their home field. They were the more aggressive team in the early-going, before Los Alamitos turned up the pressure.

The Griffins nearly scored right before halftime, as Nikki Pokipala was free at the left post before Newport sophomore midfielder Jenna Castillo rushed in and got her leg on the ball before Pokipala could shoot.

The scoring chances kept building in the second half for Los Al before Young broke through.

"The second half we made a lot of adjustments," Soler said. "We played the ball on the ground more, we kept it wide. [Draluck] has them very organized, and they stay compact in the middle. [I told my team] at halftime, 'You've got to find those seams a lot faster.' "

Even after falling behind by two goals, the Sailors nearly got on the board in the 59th minute, but junior Josie Jogwe had the ball stolen in the box on a physical play from Griffins defender Natalie Donaldson.

Natalie Swift later had a hard shot from the right after a throw-in from fellow senior Beth Barnard, but Los Al goalie Ashley Buckner (six saves) was ready.

Madeline Storch, Courtney McIntosh, Shannon Boler and Barnard helped keep the Griffins at bay for the majority of the game. Meghan Kay made three saves in the first half for the Sailors before Draluck inserted Browne (four saves), in her second game back from a knee injury.

"We weren't holding the ball like we want to," said Draluck, whose team plays at home against Edison in another key league game Thursday. "You've got to give them credit. They have a lot of people who come at you … They were the better team today."

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