NEWPORT BEACH — Newport Harbor High girls' soccer coach Larry Draluck has been known to try to motivate his players with metaphors, axioms and the occasional tall tale. So it was not surprising when he got philosophical following the Sailors' 4-0 loss to visiting Tesoro in the second round of the CIF Southern Section Division I playoffs on Tuesday.
It is, of course, rather natural to wax positively about a team that made the playoffs for the first time in six seasons, then advanced past the first round, despite being the only team among the division's 33 playoff entries to enter the tournament with more than 10 losses.
There were some tears from the Sailors' players immediately after their 8-13-3 campaign came to an end. But Draluck opened the floor to his players in the postgame discussion, and laughter erupted soon enough.
"I've been coaching soccer a long time [four seasons at Newport Harbor to make it 27 years at the club, prep and college levels] and as I've said many times, my emphasis is on the quality of play," Draluck said. "And I really thought we got the maximum out of everybody on our team."
He was speaking about the entirety of the season, as he acknowledged the Sailors, the third-place representative from the Sunset League, did not play particularly well against Tesoro (15-2-6). It was nothing like the performance that helped the Tars knock off Saugus, 2-1, on the road in the first round to hand the Foothill League champions only their third loss in 25 games.
But Draluck was also quick to credit the Titans, who posted their 12 shutout of the season and have outscored their two playoff foes, 5-0, on their way to Thursday's quarterfinals against Flintridge Sacred Heart.
"First of all [the Titans] have a lot of weapons," Draluck said. "But even in this game, as good as they were, we put a lot of pressure on them and we had some good chances to score. Unfortunately, when you get behind, you start chasing the game and it becomes very difficult."
Tesoro took a 2-0 halftime lead by virtue of some deft execution on the first goal, and a defensive miscue by the Sailors on the second goal.
The Titans then took advantage of the hosts' offensive urgency by scoring twice after intermission.
Tesoro's first two goals came within a span of 78 seconds. The visitors opened the scoring when Hannah Lopiccolo threaded a pass forward to Taylor Thurmond, who was flashing in the opposite direction. The zigzag attack exploited the initial flow of the defense, allowing Thurmond to punch the ball into the net for what appeared to be an easy, though well-earned goal.
The second goal, however, was even easier for the Titans, when a ball directed at the goalie by Cailey Starck, skipped past the Sailors' net-minder and into the net after her attempt to kick the ball on a short-hop failed to connect in the 16th minute.
Jamie Tuchi converted another assist from Lopiccolo to make it 3-0 in the 54th minute. It was the team-leading 12th goal of the season for Tuchi.
Tesoro's Victoria Russo finalized the scoring in the 77th minute.
Seniors Natalie Swift, Beth Barnard and Megan Khademi were among the standouts for the Sailors, who posted seven of their nine shots after halftime. Khademi had three shots to pace the offense, which included strong play from juniors Josie Jogwe (two shots) and Shanay Fischer.
Seniors Stephanie Storch and Mary Yeager, junior Shannon Boler, as well as sophomores Jill Messersmith and Jenna Castillo also displayed quality play, as did junior backup goalie Meaghan Kay (three saves).
Draluck told his players they were one of his top teams he has had, in terms of their ability to play the game correctly.
"Our ability to move the ball, at times, was phenomenal and unbelievable, especially with the pressure that a lot of the opponents put on us," Draluck said. "[Tesoro] was more athletic than we were. We didn't have a lot of team speed, but our speed of play [one-touch passing] is what compensated for that. In order to do that, you have to be technically mature. I'm going to encourage that kind of soccer, because I believe it's to the benefit of the player to learn how to play the game. And that's why we're here in high school; not necessarily to kick a ball in the net."