Laguna upsets Estancia

LAGUNA BEACH — At the end of the Estancia High girls' soccer match on Tuesday night, the scoreboard at Laguna Beach showed the same score during the first half.

The Eagles had trailed by two at halftime. No one bothered to change it in the final 40 minutes.

The Orange Coast League opener was much closer than the score lit up on the scoreboard.

Heather Flores converted a penalty kick three minutes into the second half and the striker almost tied it in the final minute for Estancia.

The senior's shot from close range went right to goalkeeper Kylie George and she hugged the ball, allowing the Breakers to upset the defending league champion Eagles, 2-1.

The result was not what Coach Jessica Perry wanted for Estancia (5-7-2, 0-1-0 in league), ranked No. 8 in the CIF Southern Section Division 4 poll. But she has been here before and it seems the trips to Laguna Beach always end the same.

"We've had a really, really long run of bad luck down here," said Perry, who is in her fourth season with the Eagles.

"We came out very relaxed and without the kind of intensity that I would've liked to see in the first half. Then in the second half, when we finally brought it back [to a one-goal match], what I told the girls is had we played that hard the whole time, it would've been a completely different story."

The script to the Breakers' success was jumping on Estancia early.

They scored twice in the first 25 minutes. Janie Crawford and Marina Paul each found the back of the net.

Perry expected Paul, a talented senior, to play well, but it seemed the rest of her young teammates performed in the first half. Laguna Beach, which seven of its starters are freshmen or sophomores, led 2-0 at halftime.

While the deficit was substantial, especially against a taller and stronger side, Perry believed Estancia could battle back. She told her team it was possible before the second half began.

"[It] is a very dangerous score," said Perry, referring to 2-0. "I think you want to have that comfort with [a] 2-0 [lead], but you know the second that other team scores a goal, it's a whole other ballgame."

That is exactly what happened right away in the second half.

One minute in, Flores almost cut the deficit in half. She unleashed a shot, which hit the far post.

A minute later, a defender took Flores down in the box. Flores didn't have possession of the ball, but she earned a penalty kick. And she took advantage by beating the keeper with a line drive shot to the right.

The Eagles trailed, 2-1, and seemed to gain the momentum. The scoring chances belonged to them the rest of the way.

But Estancia seemed to misfire high every time. That happened twice during a three-minute stretch. The best opportunity came when midfielder Haley Flores found her sister Heather near the far post. Heather struck the ball, only to see it go over the crossbar.

Midway through the second half, Haley blasted a shot from just outside the box. The ball barely went above the crossbar and hit the field goal post.

"We've had our ups and downs with this school," said Perry, whose team will look to rebound Thursday, when Estancia plays host to Godinez at 4:45 p.m. "I'm not worried about the rest of the league season.

"We're going to get back [on track]."

Twitter: @DCPenaloza

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