HUNTINGTON BEACH — On a rainy Monday, Newport Harbor High girls' soccer Coach Larry Draluck got some good news in the form of a text message.
The message was from his senior forward and leading scorer, Josie Jogwe, who Draluck thought would be on a recruiting trip at Sacramento State.
"She said somehow her flight got canceled," Draluck said. "She said she'd see me at the game."
The Sailors were at full strength for their showdown for first place in the Sunset League. Edison was still able to protect its home field.
Chargers junior forward Kelsey Wetzstein scored in the 31st minute and it held up, as Edison moved into first place all by itself with a 1-0 victory at Edison High.
Newport Harbor (5-8-2, 3-2-1 in league) came into the game in a three-way tie for first with Edison and Los Alamitos. Now the Sailors are in third place, and the defending league champion Chargers (12-5-3, 4-1-1) control their own destiny with four league games to go.
Los Alamitos (3-1-1 in league) is in second place. The Griffins' game at Marina on Monday was rescheduled to Saturday due to the inclement weather.
Nothing is decided in the league; Marina (2-3) and Huntington Beach (2-3-1) are also very much alive in the race for one of three automatic CIF Southern Section Division I playoff spots. Draluck did not see his team, vying for its second straight postseason appearance, lose its share of first place Monday due to lack of effort.
The rain stopped before the game, and the Sailors seemed to be controlling the midfield in the first half. That suddenly changed thanks to the efforts of Edison senior midfielder Angelisa Cortez, who won the ball in the midfield before playing it up the right sideline to sophomore forward Audrey Minar. She crossed it into the box to Wetzstein, whose shot deflected off the Sailors goalie and into the net.
Edison, ranked No. 8 in the CIF Southern Section Division I coaches' poll, had the only goal it would need. The Chargers were able to avenge their only league loss, a 1-0 overtime defeat at Newport Harbor in the league opener Jan. 5.
"Listen, I'm into soccer," Draluck said. "Just to counter and score, it's fantastic. They deserved to win. They did what they had to do, but I thought we did a good job of competing and managing the game. My kids weren't rattled really. They gave away some silly balls, but I think those were the younger players who got really excited and gave some balls away.
"I thought we moved the ball decently, not great. [In the] attacking third, we kind of sputtered."
Jogwe had the best chance in the 12th minute, but Edison sophomore goalie Alison Jahansouz leaped to grab the shot from about 25 yards out. Draluck laughed.
"Lucky save," he yelled to Jahansouz, who plays club soccer for him on the SoCal Blues.
Draluck yelled the same thing to his own goalie in the second half after another big play. Senior Emily Browne (three saves) came up huge in the 60th minute, leaping to deflect the shot of Edison's Brooke Lillywhite just over the crossbar. Cortez also had a couple of chances in the box in the second half but was thwarted by a Sailors' defense led by Shannon Boler, Rosalie Deliz and Brenda Perez.
The defense was not the problem for the Sailors after falling behind. They also received solid midfield play from Shanay Fischer, Matilda Higman, Jenna Castillo and Jill Messersmith, among others. They just couldn't get much going offensively to challenge the Chargers on their home turf.
"There's two main styles in soccer," Draluck said. "One is to manage a game, and one is to counterattack ... A team that manages the game like mine is trained to pass the ball to each other and use rhythm to create [chances]. [We have] a hard time doing that other thing, in other words, projecting into that direct style. It's just not in our nature ... It's very tough [playing from behind]."
Edison Coach Kerry "Mac" Crooks said neither side seemed to play with a lot of energy. She was still happy to see her Chargers get the result.
"I thought Newport Harbor played a great game," Crooks said. "We've just got some pretty strong forwards. They're opportunistic."
The Sailors return to league play Jan. 31, when they play host to Marina.