Novel approach for locals

Novelty is a theme for the girls soccer teams from Corona del Mar High, Estancia and Newport Harbor as they join Sage Hill in the CIF Southern Section playoffs that begin Thursday.

CdM has been a postseason staple, while Estancia has won first-round playoff games each of the last two seasons. But both enter this year's tournament with outright league titles, a first for Estancia since 1993 and at CdM since 2000.

The Sea Kings (14-3-4), who shared a Pacific Coast League crown in 2009, play host to Brea Olinda (12-8-6) in the Division I first round.

Estancia (13-4-4) is home against Colony of Ontario (10-5-4) in a Division IV first-round clash.

Newport Harbor has not been to the playoffs since 2005. The Sailors (7-12-3) finished third in the Sunset League to earn an automatic berth in Division I. They will visit Saugus (18-2-4), the Foothill League champion, in the first round.

Sage Hill (10-8-2) was third in the Academy League. The Lightning are on the road against No. 4-seeded Sierra Vista of Baldwin Park (17-2-1), the champion of the Montview League.

All games are scheduled for 3 p.m., but the threat of rain could alter things for Estancia and CdM, who might share Jim Scott Stadium's artificial surface to mitigate possible wet conditions.

CdM is also playing for the first time in Division I, said Coach Bryan Middleton, who has guided CdM to the playoffs in eight of his nine seasons, including the last four. The Sea Kings lost in the Division II quarterfinals in 2010 and 2009, both times at the hands of Redlands East Valley.

This season, CdM has scored teams, 42-11, and senior Wake Forest-bound goalkeeper Lyndsey Luke and a strong back line have amassed 11 shutouts. Only once has an opponent scored more than one goal (Irvine in a 3-2 CdM league win on Jan. 11). The Sea Kings three losses, to Edison, University and Castro Valley from the Bay Area, have all been by 1-0 scores.

Junior Amanda Stephenson, sophomore Alana Hunter, sweepers Sydney Raguse, a junior, and senior Kaylee O'Connor, as well as senior stopper Hannah Rome have anchored the defense.

Offensively, CdM has been paced by junior Ally Brahs (15 goals and two assists), as well as sophomore Annie Alvarado (nine goals and seven assists). Brahs has verbally committed to the University of Washington, Middleton said.

Estancia which is 4-0-1 and has outscored foes, 12-2, since suffering its lone Orange Coast League loss to rival Costa Mesa on Jan. 25, has outscored opponents, 34-17, this season and has posted nine shutouts.

Senior Jackie Freiberger, bound for Cal State Dominguez Hills, leads the Eagles with 13 goals and nine assists.

Junior Heather Flores has five goals and seven assists, while senior Erin O'Neil has five goals for the Eagles, coached for the third season by Jessica Gatica.

Gatica also praised the work of junior goalie Ferny Perez.

Newport Harbor's standouts include Natalie Swift, Jose Jogwe and Beth Barnard. Coach Larry Draluck's Sailors were 6-4 in league play.

Sage Hill, which was 6-3-1 in the Academy League, has outscored opponents, 30-17, this season. Maddie Culberson leads the Lightning offense with 12 goals, while Rannah Dabiri has three goals and four assists.

Sage has been blanked seven times this season, resulting in six losses and a tie.

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