For the fourth straight year, Corona del Mar High senior Alana Hunter plans to coach in the Daily Pilot Cup soccer tournament next month.
Hunter and her good friend Noelle Gooding coach a girls’ fifth- and sixth-grade team for Lincoln Elementary. It’s an experience that Hunter, who went to Lincoln herself, always enjoys.
“It’s really fun,” Hunter said. “They get really excited to learn from us, because we’re high-schoolers. The sixth-graders come here the next year and play middle school, so they know us and we see them at school. It’s a great way to get to know the girls, and they love the sport.”
Hunter doesn’t mind pitching in. She also was a huge help this year in the high school soccer season for CdM. The injuries piled up this season for the Sea Kings, especially on defense.
CdM seemed snake bitten for much of the year. The only injury that was missing was a snakebite itself.
Sophomore defender Brianna Westrup suffered a knee injury in the Pacific Coast League opener at Northwood, and didn’t return until the second round of the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs. University of Arizona-bound senior defender Alexa Mamatas (ankle) and junior defender Molly Keasey (Achilles) also missed sizable chunks of time.
“We just got so unlucky,” Hunter said. “It was just one after the other. We were really lucky to have other players be able to step up and play those positions for the team.”
The crazy thing was, the Sea Kings (16-4-4) did more than just stay afloat. Though the season ended in disappointment with that second-round CIF loss to Esperanza, CdM could still be proud of its year. The big accomplishment was winning a third straight outright league title.
For her efforts on defense and her leadership, Hunter is the Newport-Mesa Player of the Year in girls’ soccer.
“Having those injuries in the back, thankfully she was one of the individuals who did not get hurt,” CdM Coach Bryan Middleton said. “With her support and leadership, she helped keep us on track to earn another PCL title and make a run in CIF. She just had a fabulous season on defense and lifted her game to a high level. Definitely, her play spoke volumes this year.”
Hunter was the league defensive MVP, and a first-team All-CIF Division 1 selection. She thrived from the center back position, taking over there from last year’s Co-Player of the Year Sydney Raguse, who now plays at Michigan. In her two previous years as a varsity starter, Hunter played on the right side.
She didn’t miss a beat in her new role, teaming with sophomore Brynn Motal and goalies Kendall Mulvaney and Kat Hess to make CdM so solid in the center of their defense. Hunter was able to effectively mark the top players on the other team, while Motal won more of the aerial balls.
“She’s a really good player,” Hunter said of Motal. “She made my job easy.”
Alana Hunter is the middle of three children. Alyssa ran cross country at CdM before graduating in 2011, and T.J. is a freshman boys’ volleyball player at CdM. Alana put a lot of time into her soccer, playing club for West Coast FC.
She may have made it look easy for the Sea Kings, but that was just a result of all the hard work she put in. One of four team captains on CdM, she chose to deflect much of the credit to her teammates. Shelby Brown (right side) and Elise Roche (left side) were two sophomores who filled in on defense.
“I definitely felt that I needed to step up a lot, but we just have a such a deep bench,” Hunter said. “I knew that we would have other players to cover [the injured players]. We were fine.”
With Hunter back there, that was definitely true.
Here’s a look at the other 12 selections for this year’s Newport-Mesa Girls’ Soccer Dream Team:
Calderon came a long way and emerged as the Orange Coast League MVP this year, making her Coach Jessica Perry very proud. Calderon, a senior, was a tenacious anchor on defense at center back for Estancia (10-3-11), which won the outright league title and advanced to the second round of the CIF Southern Section Division 4 playoffs. The Golden West College-bound Calderon routinely guarded the best player for Estancia, which gave up just three goals in league. She was a first-team All-CIF Division 4 selection and played in the Division 4 Senior All-Star Game.
Messersmith, a senior, sparked the Sailors on offense from the midfield position. Messersmith, bound for Boise State, was one of the leading goal scorers for Newport Harbor (4-15-4) and was a playmaker on the left side. Coach Larry Draluck praised her improvement from her freshman year until now. Messersmith was a first-team All-Sunset League selection.
The senior captain was in her first year playing defense for the Lightning, yet she stepped up in a big way. One of three team captains on defense, she became a huge leader, stepping to opposing players and effectively clearing the ball out of danger. Witte, a first-team All-Academy League selection, also aided the Sage attack as she was able to play out of the back. She helped Sage Hill (14-8-3) advance to the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division 5 playoffs.
The versatile sophomore was a bright spot in a rough season for Costa Mesa, which went 1-8-1 in the Orange Coast League. Gomez shined at the center back position for Coach Tamiko Davila’s Mustangs, also excelling in long throw-ins that led to scoring chances. She was a first-team All-Orange Coast League selection for the second straight year.
Corona del Mar
Alvarado, last year’s Newport-Mesa Co-Player of the Year, remained a valuable contributor for the Sea Kings. The UCLA-bound senior midfielder suffered a groin injury in the first month of the season, but still managed to score seven goals, second on the team. She also led CdM with seven assists. Alvarado was a first-team All-Pacific Coast League selection, her third straight year earning that honor. She also was a second-team All-CIF Division 1 selection.
Barrios was a leader at the center midfielder spot for the Eagles and appears to have a bright future. Making a transition from defense, the sophomore playmaker had five goals and dished out a team-best 12 assists. She earned first-team All-Orange Coast League and second-team All-CIF Division 4 honors.
At 6-foot-tall, Castillo was a fearless ball-winner as a senior midfielder for the Sailors. She distributed very well, and linked the ball with the forwards. Castillo, bound for the University of Montana, was a first-team All-Sunset League selection for the second straight year. She also scored her lone goal of the season in the Battle of the Bay game, a volley from the top of the box, although CdM rallied for a 2-1 win. Castillo is a two-time Dream Team selection.
Whitford, a very talented all-around athlete, played stopper as a freshman. But she stepped in as standout goalie as a sophomore since the Lightning needed one, ending up with 96 saves. She also scored a huge tying goal near the end of regulation and made three saves in the ensuing shootout, helping the Lightning win at Riverside Norte Vista in a CIF Southern Section Division 5 wild-card match. Whitford, also a standout girls’ volleyball player for Sage, earned first-team All-Academy League honors. She is a repeat Dream Team selection.
Corona del Mar
Sigband, a senior midfielder, was a dynamic player for the Sea Kings. An excellent ball-winner and one of four team captains, she led the team with eight goals, adding five assists. Of her eight goals, seven came from corner kicks, including two that she curved into the goal. Sigband, who earned first-team All-Pacific Coast League and second-team All-CIF Division 1 honors, is a repeat Dream Team selection.
Corona del Mar
Like Hunter, Motal stepped up on defense for the Sea Kings as the injuries piled up. Just a sophomore, Motal nevertheless stayed composed and was a very effective player from the center back position, particularly on 50-50 balls and aerial balls. She was the only sophomore to earn first-team All-Pacific Coast League honors and also was a third-team All-CIF Division 1 selection. She also scored two goals, both from corner kicks.
Leahy continued to shine as a sophomore, in her second year as starting varsity goalkeeper for the Eagles. She had 14 shutouts for Estancia. In league, the undefeated Eagles had six ties, and Leahy was a big reason why more of those games weren’t losses. She allowed just three goals in the 10 league contests, making 107 saves for the season. Leahy was a first-team All-Orange Coast League selection.
Corona del Mar
The sophomore midfielder/forward tallied six goals and three assists for the Sea Kings, showing she was an able addition to the Dream Team like her older sister. She played at left midfielder quite a bit, and became known for her long runs up the middle of the field. The confidence of Sigband, who tied for third on the team with her six goals, improved throughout the season. She sparked CdM with a hot streak at the start of league, with three straight goals in the first three league games. Sigband was a second-team All-Pacific Coast League selection.