CORONA DEL MAR — The Corona del Mar High girls' lacrosse team may not always outrun you this year.
Instead, the Sea Kings will outthink you.
After losing a large senior class, Coach Aly Vislocky said CdM is trying to play a more tactical game in 2013. The Sea Kings have implemented more plays, with the help of new assistant coach Jessica Murray.
The result of the team's hard work certainly looked impressive Thursday afternoon at home. CdM upset rival Foothill, 9-7, in a nonleague game.
Corona del Mar, which made a surprise run to the finals of the U.S. Lacrosse Southern Section South Division last year as the No. 7 seed, appears ready for a sort of encore.
"This year, we're trying to take it one step up," Vislocky said. "What I tell the girls is that we were probably the most athletic team last year, and it only got us so far ... We need to go beyond that, through strategy. We're trying to step it up a notch, which this team totally can, because we're still a very fast team."
Senior captain Molly Rovzar, who is headed to the University of Colorado, led the Sea Kings against Foothill with three goals. She said CdM (10-2), which has won eight straight matches and is ranked No. 7 in Southern California by LAXpower.com, is coming together at a good time. Foothill (4-4) is ranked No. 6 in Southern California.
"We've had to really adjust," Rovzar said. "We lost to Aliso [Niguel], and I think that gave us an awakening of what we need to work on. I think ever since, we've stepped up practices, and we've really been putting in the extra effort to learn our plays ... I think we've proven that we have the confidence to maintain our stability from last year, if not do better."
The Sea Kings and Knights have formed a bit of a good rivalry. Last year the teams' nonleague game was rained out, but CdM players said Foothill declined to reschedule. The Sea Kings got the last laugh, upsetting the No. 2-seeded Knights on their home field in the playoffs.
Thursday's game was close throughout. CdM had a 5-3 halftime lead, but Foothill tied it on back-to-back strikes by Jordan James, who led all players with four goals.
CdM then couldn't take advantage of a two-player up situation. After a Foothill player was issued a yellow card, Coach Kaylee Navarette complained to the referee, who gave the coach a yellow card as well. Navarette was forced to take another player out of the game, but Foothill held onto possession during the two-minute player-down period.
But CdM was undeterred. Junior Sabrina "Bean" Smith found senior Emily Turner for a goal with 8:35 left in the game, giving the Sea Kings back the lead. And freshman Payton Carter added a goal off an eight-meter shot with 5:13 left.
Foothill responded with a goal off an eight-meter, but CdM senior Kylie Mulvaney added an insurance goal with 1:51 left. Mulvaney, one of two team captains on defense along with senior Meredith Davin, drew the eight-meter shot then converted it.
Mulvaney also played big in the draw control aspect of the game, as she had six of them. Smith had four draw controls, and both players tied for the team lead with four ground balls.
"I think Kylie played phenomenal," Vislocky said. "I think defense sometimes doesn't get enough shoutout, but in a game like this it gets highlighted a lot more, which I love."
Turner scored twice for CdM, and Smith and senior Paige Miller added one goal each. Smith and junior Kacie Kline added assists.
Senior goalie April Tran, in her first year on varsity, made four of her five saves in the second half for CdM.
"It's really cool to see her come into her own," Mulvaney said. "Her increased talking and her increased aggression on the field is really commendable. I personally was not sure how it was all going to turn out, but I think that she's really stepped it up. It's nice to know that she has our back, and to occasionally hear her behind us."
Kelli Filbin scored twice for Foothill. The Knights' star senior goalie, University of Maryland-bound Emily Kift, made nine saves.
CdM now has to prepare for a crucial league game at Beckman on Monday. The teams shared the Pacific Coast League title last season, but CdM beat Beckman in the playoff semifinals.
Beckman, however, is ranked higher this year, No. 3 in Southern California. Both the Sea Kings and Patriots are undefeated in league.
"Having this win against Foothill gives us a little more confidence," Rovzar said. "At the same time, Beckman's one of those teams where we have to be there mentally and be ready to play our game. It can go any way. We beat them last year, then they beat us, then we beat them again. We have to be ready for any circumstance."
Tactically, CdM should be well-prepared.