CdM, Uni all tied up

COSTA MESA — It has been an eventful week for the Corona del Mar High girls' soccer team, even though Thursday's game against University was their only one of the week.

On Tuesday, CdM learned it had clinched its second straight outright league title following Uni's victory over Beckman. On Wednesday, four of CdM's top players — seniors Ally Brahs (Washington), Amanda Stephenson (George Mason), Sydney Raguse (Michigan) and goalie Sarah Cox (Stanford) — signed national letters of intent.

CdM has also been in finals this week. An inspired University side provided the Sea Kings with their toughest league test so far Thursday at Jim Scott Stadium.

The teams played to a scoreless tie in the Pacific Coast League match, snapping CdM's 15-match winning streak. But Coach Bryan Middleton said in some ways it might not have been a bad thing for his team, ranked No. 2 in CIF Southern Section Division I.

"In some sort of a weird way, as a coach, you're kind of glad this happens sometimes so you can refocus everything," Middleton said. "It's tough to make a run all the way since Dec. 10 and get all the way into the playoffs. If you lose in the playoffs, you're done. This is a little bit of a wake-up call in the sense that we need to make sure when we get our opportunities in the game, we're finishing them."

Corona del Mar (18-1-2, 7-0-1 in league) could not finish off University (7-7-4, 2-5-2). This was true even though the Sea Kings, ranked No. 6 nationally by ESPNHS, dominated the scoring chances in the first half.

Perhaps the best chance came just before halftime, but Karsten Sigband's free kick from near the CdM sideline angled through the box dangerously before going out of bounds. Minutes earlier, Uni had its only real scoring chance of the half, but Kailee Feinstein's header off a free kick was grabbed by Cox.

The game was more even in the second half. Trojans Coach Dominic Fratantaro said his team has been coming together lately, including that 1-0 win over Beckman on Tuesday. CdM also had beaten University, 4-0, in the teams' first league meeting Jan. 12.

"[Tuesday's win over Beckman] was one of our toughest games, and one of the times that we've basically fought the hardest," Fratantaro said. "This game was right there. I thought we were right there with them. Last time they got a couple of fluke goals and we got a red card, and this time it was a close contest. I'm really proud of my girls."

CdM did keep the pressure on after halftime. Junior Sydney Raguse sent several long free kicks into the box, but the Sea Kings weren't able to get a clean shot off. Maddie O'Connor had a nice shot from the left after fellow junior Annie Alvarado's run in the 52nd minute, the shot going just over the cage.

The time the Sea Kings threatened most seriously was in the 60th minute, when Alvarado earned a corner kick. Her corner curved in toward the goal, but Uni goalie Coryna Ogunseitan (three saves) was there to bat it away.

University nearly pulled ahead in the 69th minute after the Trojans stole the ball in the CdM defensive third. But Cox dived to her left to make the save.

Middleton said his defense, anchored by Cox, Raguse, Stephenson, Alana Hunter and Molly Keasey, again played well. CdM has given up just three goals in league.

"We just couldn't find the back of the net tonight," said Middleton, who has noticed a trend late in the season.

"There's been quite a few ties this last week with teams that are ranked in the top 10 [of Division I]," Middleton said. "[No. 3] San Clemente tied on Tuesday, [No. 6] Edison tied Fountain Valley, and [No. 5] Dana Hills tied Trabuco. It's that part of the season where other teams are coming together a little bit ... All the credit to Uni today. They're gelling in the second half of league."

CdM has two league contests left, against Beckman on Tuesday at Irvine's Harvard Park and at home against Woodbridge on Thursday. The latter game will be senior day and will be played on the grass at CdM, instead of the field turf at Jim Scott Stadium.

Both of CdM's ties this year have occurred at the venue.

"It was a little moist tonight, so it's got a little skip to it," Middleton said of the turf. "It could just be an indication that they're a little tired too. We were just not as crisp as we usually are tonight."

Twitter: @mjszabo

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