CdM shuts door on Tars

CORONA DEL MAR — While players, fans and coaches left the lacrosse field, Coach G.W. Mix was picking up trash on the other sideline at Corona del Mar High.

Mix was more than happy to do it Tuesday.

His boys' team had disposed of Back Bay rival Newport Harbor, 13-9, in the opening round of the U.S. Lacrosse Orange County Southern Section Division I playoffs. It was Mix's time to clean up and then get the Sea Kings ready for the next round at fourth-seeded San Clemente on Thursday.

The opening act was a tough one for fifth-seeded CdM (15-4). Mix was surprised that the Sea Kings had to face No. 12 Newport Harbor (8-10) at the start of the postseason.

"I'm not suggesting in any way that I was surprised they were in [the playoffs], but I almost thought they deserved by their [strength of] schedule a little higher [seed] than that," Mix said of the Sailors, who finished in third place in the Sunset League. "But we knew right when the draw came out [last Saturday] that when the No. 12 is Newport Harbor and [it's] playing CdM, it's not really a No. 12. We knew we had our hands full from the very beginning."

The first meeting between the two schools in the postseason did not turn out like the past six regular-season matchups.

The Sea Kings have owned the Battle of the Bay since 2006, winning by an average of almost six goals per game. They beat Newport Harbor, 8-3, on March 25. If anyone knows how lopsided the rivalry has been, it is Mark Todd, who used to coach at CdM until he stepped down in 2009.

Todd is now at Newport Harbor, and in his first season at the school, he has turned around the program in a short time. This time, the Sailors challenged CdM.

After falling behind by two goals in the first three minutes, Newport Harbor responded in a big way. Jake Turner scored twice during a 4-0 run, helping Newport Harbor take a 4-2 lead.

Turner was unstoppable for much of the first half. Whenever the Sea Kings battled back, there was the junior pushing Newport Harbor ahead.

Turner closed out the first and second periods by finding the back of the net each time. His fourth goal gave the Sailors a 6-5 lead at halftime. The last two times CdM trailed at the break it lost each time.

What was on the minds of the Sea Kings, the Pacific Coast League champions?

"It's hard to beat any team twice [in one season]," CdM junior midfielder Michael Keasey said. "We've had [that scenario] in the past with Foothill [and we lost the second meeting each time], so we were a little worried coming in.

"Obviously, a rivalry game, so rankings kind of go out the window. It's just who wants it more. A lot of our friends [are] over there, so we really wanted to beat each other."

The Sea Kings rose up in the second half and took it to the Sailors.

The first three goals in the third period were recorded by CdM, Connor Canale scored first, followed by Connor Gaal and then Hunter Molnar. Just like that, the Sea Kings went up, 8-6.

Turner cut the deficit to one with his fifth goal, but there was Gaal attacking the cage again. In soccer, he is the goalkeeper making the big saves. In lacrosse, he gets to score and that is what he did with 59 seconds left in the third, extending CdM's lead back to two goals.

The play during the 12 minutes of the period showed Mix that his team made the necessary adjustments.

"Part of it is we just settled down and stopped worrying about the fact that it was Newport Harbor and we just started being more concerned with what we were doing and how we were doing it," said Mix, adding that the team cut the turnovers and mistakes on the defensive end, helping goalie Michael Ortlieb make 17 saves.

"Michael saw the ball really well in the second half and made some huge saves for us that really enabled us to … build [those] back-to-back-to-back-to-back goal [scoring opportunities] that we weren't getting in that first half."

The Sea Kings twice scored on back-to-back situations in the final period.

First, it was Parker Ewles and Jack Ortlieb. Then it was Canale and Keasey, who each produced their third goal of the game. Turner added his game-high sixth goal, but it was CdM moving on.

The Sea Kings are used to getting past the opening round. They have reached the Orange County Southern Section Division I final the past two seasons. A third straight will be difficult. Getting past San Clemente (12-4) will not be easy.

"Everybody all season long has thought that [the Tritons are] better than we are, so we'll see what happens on Thursday night," Mix said.

"The nice thing is that it's going to be in the evening [at 7], so it will be a little bit cooler than it was [Tuesday]."

An added bonus is that Mix will not have to pick up any trash after it is over.

He is with the visitors this time.

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