CdM bid to repeat kicks off

Coach George Larsen does not know much about the next opponent the Corona del Mar High boys' soccer team plays.

But he is almost certain the match against Garey of Pomona will be in the rain.

The Sea Kings on Monday earned a home first-round match in the CIF Southern Section Division III playoffs. Whether CdM plays at home Friday at 3 p.m. depends on the weather.

Forecasters are calling for rain two days earlier. By the time of CdM's match, the field might be unplayable.

"Depending on the kind of rain, we might have to move the game to Estancia High and play on its turf because it can absorb the water a lot better," said Larsen, who added that the time of the match might switch to 5 p.m. if is moved to Jim Scott Stadium. "We would rather play here [at CdM] if it is muddy."

The road to CdM (13-2-7) winning a second straight section title might start sloppily because of the conditions.

The Sea Kings are one of three programs in the area that might have to deal with playing in the rain. The other two, Costa Mesa and Sage Hill, could face the showers Wednesday.

Both the Mustangs and Lightning are just happy to be battling more than the weather around this time of the year.

Coach Alex Cordoba has led the Mustangs (9-9-3) to their first postseason appearance in nine years. While the Lightning (9-5-3) return to the playoffs with a new coach in Rodrigo Cid.

Costa Mesa and Sage Hill, which respectively finished third in the Orange Coast League and Academy League, are each playing host to wild-card matches on Wednesday at 3 p.m. The Mustangs play Muir of Pasadena in Division IV and the Lightning have Citrus Hill of Perris in Division VI.

The Sea Kings are able to relocate their first-round game against Garey (18-5-2) because Estancia did not qualify for the playoffs for the first time in seven seasons. Also, if the Mustangs get past Muir (8-7-3), the No. 4 representative from the Pacific League, they have to travel in the first round to fourth-seeded Salesian of Los Angeles Friday, making Jim Scott Stadium available for CdM.

Larsen prefers to be at home against Garey, the third-place team out of the Mt. Baldy League. The Sea Kings have been nearly unbeatable on their turf, only having dropped one match.

The setback at home came against Woodbridge, costing CdM a share of the Pacific Coast League title with the Warriors. Larsen said he is OK with the Sea Kings falling short to the Warriors (17-4-5), who received a No. 3 seed in the Division III playoffs.

"We've been basically playing without Jack McBean and Matt Francini all year," said Larsen, referring to two players CdM lost after McBean and Francini played one match in December for the Sea Kings before leaving for good because of club commitments.

McBean, a 16-year-old, recently signed a professional contract with the Los Angeles Galaxy.

The Sea Kings have missed McBean's scoring ability at striker. CdM, ranked No. 9 in the final Division III coaches' poll, is also without midfielder Grady Howe. Larsen said he is not counting on the junior to play in the playoffs because of his back.

The Sea Kings are not the same team that claimed the Division IV section title and CIF Southern California Regional Division II crown last season.

"We have only lost two games all season, but I believe we have overachieved," said Larsen, adding that the jump to Division III this season makes it much more difficult to win a section title. "Usually there are four or five teams that have a legitimate shot to win [a section crown]. In our new division, you can say there are eight teams that are serious contenders. We will see who can survive the early rounds."

CdM hopes the rain does not wreck its Friday.

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