Girls' Soccer: Bounces go against CdM

COSTA MESA — The rain never materialized Tuesday afternoon at Jim Scott Stadium, but a brisk wind played a role in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 second-round girls' soccer playoff match.

Host Corona del Mar played north to south in the first half, with the wind, but never took the lead.

In the second half, visiting Esperanza made sure the Sea Kings' hopes were just gone with the wind.

Aztecs senior midfielder Nosa Ogiamien scored in the 62nd minute as CdM was shocked, 1-0, in a season-ending loss.

Esperanza (15-5-6), the second-place team from the Century League, plays host to Harvard-Westlake on Thursday in a quarterfinal match.

Corona del Mar (16-4-4), which won its third straight outright Pacific Coast League title this year, also had a streak of four straight years making the CIF quarterfinals. This year, its season ended a round earlier with a loss that was hard to take.

"We probably had 75% of the possession in the first half, with the advantage of the wind," Coach Bryan Middleton said. "Unfortunately, we didn't find the back of the net. We needed to get that goal in the first half. Basically, we would have put them away if we would have scored in the first half. It didn't happen, though. We fought hard the second half, but basically soccer's like this. You can dominate a game and you can still lose."

The Sea Kings' best chance to score before the break came in the 25th minute. UC Santa Barbara-bound senior captain Maddie O'Connor dribbled near the top of the box before making a left-footed strike toward the goal. But Esperanza freshman goalkeeper Melissa Weck, diving to her right, made a standout save.

The match went into halftime scoreless, which pleased Esperanza and Coach John King.

"They had home-field advantage, they had the wind, they had the momentum," King said. "If we can survive the first half, or even 20 minutes, once we did 20 minutes we got some confidence. Obviously, [playing scoreless] the whole half, we definitely got to go in the locker room with our heads up."

Esperanza broke the tie in the 62nd minute, after being awarded a corner kick despite Middleton's claim that the ball seemed to go off an Esperanza player.

"To begin with, it was a goal kick," Middleton said. "It shouldn't have been a corner kick ... All of the players were clearly saying that it was a goal kick and this [referee], who's 60 yards away, is saying, 'No, it's a corner' ... they got a great opportunity because of the referee."

The corner kick bounced off the left goal post and back toward the corner. CdM was unable to clear the ball and it was played into the six-yard box near the right post, where the USC-bound Ogiamien stuck it in off the leg of CdM freshman goalie Kat Hess (six saves).

CdM, now playing against the wind, found it tough to respond. The Sea Kings had three more long free kicks by senior captain Karsten Sigband. The first produced a shot in the box that went high, and the second was headed back toward the goal before Esperanza keeper Katelyn Sullivan grabbed it. Sullivan was also able to grab the third long free kick, a direct shot on goal in the 74th minute.

The Sea Kings had one last chance in the closing moments, but nobody could get to Alana Hunter's cross into the box from the right side.

"First half, going into it, you could tell we were fired up," Sigband said. "We just didn't finish our chances ... As a soccer player, sometimes that happens. You have to take it. Even though everyone watching might know who's the better team, sometimes the better team doesn't win. It's a bummer, but sometimes that's just the way it goes."

King said as much after the match, that CdM was the better soccer team. But the Aztecs, who extended their unbeaten streak to 11 matches, would take the result.

"My hat's off to them," King said. "They're a very talented team, and they're fun to watch play. I definitely don't want to play them again any time soon."

That won't be a problem, with CdM's season over. Middleton said his team accomplished two of its four season goals, by beating Newport Harbor in the Battle of the Bay and winning another outright league title. Two went unaccomplished, winning a tournament and winning the Division 1 title.

Corona del Mar still has never advanced to the CIF title match in girls' soccer.

"We're still chasing the elusive CIF title for CdM girls' soccer," Middleton said. "One day, it will come."

UCLA-bound senior midfielder Annie Alvarado, one of four team captains along with Sigband, O'Connor and Hunter, said CdM still had a season to remember.

"I was really happy with our season," Alvarado said. "We had our spell in the middle, but we came together as a team. We put in the effort."

Twitter: @mjszabo

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