CdM has will to thrill

CORONA DEL MAR — Lindsey Luke said she'd never been in a penalty-kick shootout that went that long.

There were 20 penalty kicks taken Tuesday afternoon at Corona del Mar High. Luke guessed right on a couple of Los Alamitos' attempts, but couldn't get to the ball in the corner.

Luke, the Sea Kings' senior goalie, had made more than her fair share of saves in regulation. She kept a cool hand throughout. On the Griffins' last attempt, all she had to do was look up.

The ball flew over the goal and Luke went to celebrate with her teammates. The Sea Kings survived, 8-7 in penalty kicks, after playing to a 1-1 tie in regulation and overtime in the CIF Southern Section Division I second-round match.

Corona del Mar will play at top-seeded San Clemente in a Division I quarterfinal Thursday. San Clemente topped Yucaipa, 3-0, in another second-round match.

CdM (16-3-4) went first in the shootout against Los Alamitos (16-7-4). This bothered nobody on the Sea Kings as every make put more pressure on Los Alamitos, especially with the Wake Forest-bound Luke in goal.

"I like that pressure of [playing goalie] second," said Luke, who made 15 saves prior to the shootout. "I like that adrenaline rush. I didn't get any [PK saves] this game, but I guessed right on a couple. My team just followed through on everything. I'm so thankful that we just finished all of those PKs."

Sophomore Maddie O'Connor scored the final penalty-kick goal for CdM, which converted eight of its 10 attempts.

Junior Ally Brahs, who had scored CdM's goal in regulation in the 48th minute, also converted the first penalty kick for CdM. That was followed by makes from Annie Alvarado and Alana Hunter. CdM had a 3-1 lead as a Los Alamitos attempt went smack off the crossbar.

"All your fault!" chanted boisterous CdM student supporters, mostly members of the CdM boys' soccer team. The referee came over.

"Not another word until we're done," he told the boys.

Los Alamitos caught up when the Sea Kings' fourth attempt was saved on a dive to her left by Los Al goalie Amanda Sears. Each team converted its next three attempts, with Luke, Brittney Brown and Monica Venturini each scoring.

With the shootout score tied at 6-6, a CdM shot went right to Sears. The Griffins mistakenly rushed toward their goalie, thinking the game was over. But they still had to make another shot to clinch their win, and that shot trickled past the right post.

Kaylee O'Connor scored before her younger sister followed suit to give CdM an 8-7 lead. It stood up when the Griffins' next shot-taker launched one well over the net.

The Sea Kings were on their way to their third straight CIF quarterfinals appearance, the last two coming in Division II.

"We've never had a crescendo like that before," CdM Coach Bryan Middleton said. "We had penalty kicks last year in the first round, but it wasn't much of a pressure-cooker-type situation like this. It was more excitement today because we had the game wrapped up, and they scored in the last minute to tie it. It was that big of a deal to believe we could get the result in overtime, then to PKs."

Los Alamitos had evened the score at 1-1 in the 79th minute, as Callie Taylor scored a sliding goal in the box off a cross from Lindsey Bolt. Neither team scored in two 10-minute "golden goal" overtime periods.

Los Alamitos was aggressive and controlled possession from the start, creating many more scoring opportunities. But CdM's defense held behind strong efforts from Luke, Hannah Rome, Alana Hunter, Amanda Stephenson, Kaylee O'Connor and Sydney Raguse. Luke had the saves of the day right before the halftime whistle, coming up with the ball after a point-blank shot from Los Al's Taylor Vargo and rebound attempt.

"I knew offensively they would pressure us the whole game," Middleton said. "They're technically a sound team, and they play with a lot of pace. They came after us the whole game, and I wanted to make sure that we were strong defensively. I thought we could catch them on a counterattack or a set piece, and we did."

Raguse played a long free kick into the box eight minutes into the second half. The Griffins got it out, but Hunter played a high-bouncing ball back in. It went right to the foot of Brahs, who scored her team-leading 16th goal of the season.

It appeared that would stand up until the Griffins' stunner at the end of regulation. CdM had to compose itself quickly.

"We were trying to play it wide, with the width," said Rome, a stopper. "That was our game plan. We just had to keep going and keep up the spirit of our team. We didn't want to get our heads down and [have Los Alamitos] get another one in. And we know we're strong in PKs, so we tried to keep it going as long as we could. We just pushed it until the end."

Luke was there at the end. She said this is the most close-knit team CdM has had in her three years of high school soccer; she didn't play her junior year.

The Pacific Coast League champion Sea Kings have allowed just 12 goals in 23 games, and more than one goal in a game just once all season.

"We worked really efficiently in the back," Luke said. "We're a really close defense. I love it. Actually, the whole team's really close.

"We're taking it a game at a time, but our main goal would be to win CIF. All of us have that on our mind every time we're out here. I feel like we just pushed ourselves, thought about what this game means to us and played as hard as we could."

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