COSTA MESA — For the first time in Coach Jessica Perry's four-year tenure, the Estancia High girls' soccer team played a nonleague game against Newport Harbor on Thursday.
Being the Eagles' girls' athletic director can have its perks. Perry is in charge of setting up her team's schedule.
"We were at a big meeting and [Newport Harbor A.D.] Mike Zimmerman said, 'You should schedule a game with us.'" Perry said. "And I said, 'You're right, we should.'"
Thursday's game at Jim Scott Stadium was not without drama. Lightning went off in the distance every few minutes, and it started raining as the game ended.
Nothing changed on the scoreboard, though, where the Eagles and Sailors played to a scoreless draw.
It was the second straight week the Eagles, who play in CIF Southern Section Division IV, tied a bigger — both in school size and in physical stature — Division I interdistrict foe. They tied Corona del Mar, 1-1, on Dec. 6.
"I'm very happy with the girls that we have here," Perry said. "I'm happy with the fight that they put up. We're small, but mighty."
Newport Harbor Coach Larry Draluck said he was surprised his team didn't beat Estancia. The Sailors (1-4-2) did create more scoring opportunities, most of those by junior Jill Messersmith.
The best one came in the first half, when Messersmith played give-and-go with senior Josie Jogwe. The left-footed Messersmith's shot from the left side of the box went back across the goal but trickled just wide right.
Messersmith also nearly scored in the 45th minute, but her free kick from 30 yards out went just over the goal. The Sailors tried to keep the pressure on, but Jogwe was called for offsides three times in the second half. Perry credited her junior defender, Teresa Romero, for helping limit Jogwe's touches.
"We don't run an offside trap, per se, but we definitely work hard to get forward," Perry said. "What happens to us is we clear the ball and we're not big in the middle, so if we lose the ball in the middle it comes right back. If we haven't pushed up, then that girl's onside all day long. We're trying to push up as a unit a little faster to catch people offside."
Estancia (3-4-2) tried to counter the Sailors' momentum. Senior Heather Flores created two corner kick opportunities in the second half, but the Eagles were turned away each time behind stellar defense from senior defender Shannon Boler and senior goalie Meaghan Kay (seven saves).
Draluck knows Boler is a mainstay on defense. What he is looking for is another goal scorer. Freshman Matilda Higman showed potential Thursday, getting off a hard shot from the left in the final minutes that was saved nicely by Estancia freshman goalie Caitlin Leahy (five saves) before Jogwe came in for a rebound attempt.
"We're trying to move it, but we're having a hard time creating opportunities," Draluck said. "We had a few, and so did they ... We just don't have a lot of scoring punch. We've got Josie, we've got Jill, and we need somebody else to step up there and try to score goals."
Higman battled well in the second half with Estancia junior defender Isela Garcia, not backing down.
The Sailors are young overall, even though they've already lost two freshmen in Alyssa Randall (concussion) and Brooke Zachry (torn ACL). Draluck said Zachry would have been a starter at center fullback. Newport Harbor is also currently without senior Courtney McIntosh (knee).
"Courtney, I'm waiting on her MRI," Draluck said. "She had it [Thursday] ... we've just got a really, really young team. Next year we lose some key players, but the future, from a soccer perspective, it looks good. We've just got to see if we can manufacture some wins."
Estancia received positive news when senior midfielder Christy Brown was cleared to play Wednesday after suffering two tears in her quad. Brown, a team captain along with Flores, played limited minutes Thursday as Perry said Brown still has to work back into game shape.
"Her calming presence is what we need," Perry said.