ALISO VIEJO — The song "Encore" by Jay-Z played during the last timeout in the fourth quarter.
It wasn't easy. But on Saturday night at Aliso Niguel, the Corona del Mar High boys' lacrosse team got a step closer to quite an encore indeed.
The top-seeded Sea Kings pulled away in the fourth quarter to defeat No. 4 JSerra, 8-5, in a U.S. Lacrosse Southern Section South Division semifinal match. They're now one match away from defending their title.
CdM will play No. 3-seeded St. Margaret's in the Orange County title match on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. at Mission Viejo High. St. Margaret's got past No. 2-seeded Foothill, 19-6, in the second semifinal match Saturday.
St. Margaret's is one of just two teams to defeat CdM (18-2) this year. The Tartans pulled it off in overtime, 12-11, on April 12.
Now CdM gets a shot at revenge with the title on the line. Getting to the championship match means a lot to the program.
"The level of play in Orange County has just gotten better and better and better," CdM Coach G.W. Mix said. "To be fortunate enough to be one of the two that are going to play for the championship, it means a lot more now than it did five, 10 years ago. You've got to beat some damn good teams ... it makes it even more special."
Mix got back a special player Saturday in Holy Cross-bound attacker Jack Ortlieb, who had missed four games with a hamstring injury. Ortlieb made his presence felt for CdM, scoring a pair of goals.
The first goal was memorable. With time running down in the first half, Ortlieb took the pass from Hugh Crance and fired a shot from 30 yards out. It found the back of the net with just two seconds to go, giving the Sea Kings a 3-2 halftime advantage.
"I just put it on goal and luckily it went in," Ortlieb said. "I've never even come close to [a goal like that], so that was exciting. It was one of the luckier things that I've done. I'm glad it went in, though."
JSerra (15-5) did not fold. The Lions got a goal from sophomore midfielder Jake Schleppy to tie the score at 3-3. Then, after CdM senior Brett Nelson scored from the outside, JSerra junior Brenden Lynch answered with 4:39 remaining in the third quarter.
The score stayed the same headed into the fourth quarter, until Ortlieb broke the tie on a skip shot. That set off a run of four straight goals for the Sea Kings. Sophomore Max Kline scored on Nelson's assist, then senior Chris Von Der Ahe fed senior Casey Mix for a goal. Just more than a minute later, Mix found Nelson in front of the cage.
He put it away, giving CdM an 8-4 lead with 4:48 left in the game.
"They did a terrific job of changing from one thing to another to another, to take time off the clock," G.W. Mix said of JSerra. "It wasn't that we weren't getting opportunities. I don't think we finished particularly well in the first half, but those adjustments require time ... We were able to pick the pace of the game up a little bit in the fourth quarter.
"More importantly, Jack hasn't been with us for four games. It took a little time for those guys to all find one another again and get that feeling back. Once they got it back, it was fun to watch."
Casey Mix, bound for UC Santa Barbara, led CdM with three goals while the Indiana-bound Von Der Ahe had a pair of assists. Sophomore goalie Hoyt Crance anchored the defense on his way to 17 saves.
Corona del Mar, ranked No. 4 in the state by LaxPower.com, now gets its rematch with No. 11 St. Margaret's.
"It was good to get my legs going again with the guys," said Ortlieb, adding he felt fine after the game. "I enjoyed every moment of it. I'm excited to be back at it again [at practice] on Monday ... Wednesday night should be fun."