Girls' Soccer Playoffs: CdM collects top seed

Bryan Middleton was a part of three large-school division championship teams as a soccer player at Jesuit High in Portland, Ore. As an assistant coach, he helped the Edison High boys' soccer team win the CIF Southern Section Division II crown in 2000-2001.

His Corona del Mar High girls' soccer teams have also been on the upswing in recent years, but the Sea Kings have not won a CIF title in program history.

Their best shot so far under Middleton starts now. Pacific Coast League champion CdM has earned the top seed in the CIF Southern Section Division I playoffs.

The Sea Kings (20-2-2) play host on Friday to the winner of a wild-card game between Huntington Beach and West Ranch. Middleton said he is hoping to have the game moved to Jim Scott Stadium at 4 p.m.

Three other Newport-Mesa teams also made the postseason. Newport Harbor (8-10-3), the third-place team from the Sunset League, plays at Mission League champion Harvard-Westlake in another first-round Division I match Friday.

Sage Hill (12-5-3), the third-place team from the Academy League, plays at Alverno of Sierra Madre in a first-round Division VI clash Friday.

Estancia, which finished fourth in the Orange Coast League, received an at-large berth into the Division IV playoffs. The Eagles (9-8-6) play at La Sierra of Riverside in a wild-card match Wednesday. Should they win, they'd play at No. 2-seeded Marymount in a first-round tilt Friday.

CdM is seeded for the first time in Middleton's 10-year tenure. His team is led by its senior captains: forward Allyson Brahs (Washington), defenders Amanda Stephenson (George Mason) and Sydney Raguse (Michigan) and goalkeeper Sarah Cox (Stanford). The Sea Kings captured their second straight outright league title, yet bigger goals remain.

"At some point, we want to win the CIF title," Middleton said. "This year especially, we've had the right mix of players on the field and leadership from the four senior captains."

The Sea Kings were ranked No. 2 in CIF for much of the year. CdM moved up after then-No. 1 Aliso Niguel lost a South Coast League match to then-No. 3 San Clemente on Wednesday. League champion San Clemente is the No. 2 seed and Dana Hills the No. 3 seed, while Aliso Niguel dropped to No. 4.

But Middleton said it is his team, which has lost in the CIF quarterfinals each of the last three years (the first two in Division II), that has something to prove.

"No matter what, we're still underdogs," he said. "We're still trying to get that first title."

CdM, ranked No. 7 in the nation by ESPNHS, lost its second game of the season Saturday to Mater Dei. Middleton said the game had no bearing on CIF seedings and he used it to rest a trio of banged up juniors, Maddie O'Connor, Annie Alvarado and Karsten Sigband. Alvarado, a UCLA commit, leads CdM with 12 goals.

The Sea Kings have not played Huntington Beach this year. They beat West Ranch, 2-0, on Dec. 28 at the Flintridge Sacred Heart tournament that CdM won.

Newport Harbor is in the playoffs back-to-back years for the first time in a decade. Last year the Sailors upset Saugus on the road in the first round. Coach Larry Draluck said his team, led in scoring by senior Josie Jogwe, will have to play a near-perfect game against a strong Harvard-Westlake side to get the same result.

"We have to try to starve the other team by holding the ball," said Draluck, adding that the fact that the road game is on turf could benefit the Sailors. They will try to control the game in the midfield with senior Shanay Fischer and juniors Jill Messersmith and Jenna Castillo.

Sage Hill is coming off a tough 1-0 overtime loss to Crean Lutheran on Thursday that dropped the Lightning from second to third in league. But first-year Coach Catie Chase, whose team is led by senior captains Sanna Taskinen at defense and goalie Alexa Thomas, said her team will be motivated to make a run in CIF.

"It's not the ultimate or the best scenario," Chase said. "But our girls are taking the Crean game and using it to inspire them."

Estancia will be playing La Sierra for the second time this season in the Division IV wild-card round. Coach Jessica Perry's squad, which has made the playoffs in each of her four years, lost to La Sierra, 1-0, on Dec. 10.

Cal State San Marcos-bound senior forward Heather Flores and freshman Alondra Guzman lead Estancia with six goals each. Flores is a co-captain but Perry said the other co-captain, senior Christy Brown, who will miss the game due to an academic trip.

In each of Perry's first three years, the Eagles lost in the second round to a seeded team. This year, they'll meet the No. 2 seed a round earlier if they win Wednesday.

"It's nothing new for us," Perry said. "No one's going to see us coming, but we're going to do our best."


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