COSTA MESA — The official Daily Pilot Cup soccer uniform consists of a colored T-shirt and, well, whatever else the kids decide to wear. The third- and fourth-grade girls’ silver division team from Mariners Elementary took extreme creative license when it came to everything else but their day-glo orange T-shirts in the opening round against Kaiser on Tuesday at Costa Mesa High.
There were lime green socks, pink socks, multi-colored socks, some of which had patterns. There were yellow socks, black socks, red socks, white socks and even one player who chose a separate color for each sock.
Creativity, however, was not limited to fashion for the Marlins, who found a way to turn a dominant first half of offense into the game’s only two goals.
Katie Egan, who wore one red and one black sock, opened the scoring in the ninth minute with somewhat of an unexpected tally. She fired a shot on net from about 23 yards out and the ball bounced high, glancing off the hands of the goalkeeper and just over the goal line for all the Marlins would need.
Just in case, Mikayla Downey stole the ball about five yards in front of the net and drilled a shot into the net to put an exclamation point on a first half in which Mariners had all seven of the game’s shots.
Kaiser keeper Sophia Stark made three saves to help keep the Knights in it, and they more than made a game of it after halftime.
“We were playing three in the back, three in the middle and two forward in the first half,” Kaiser Coach Rob Dodman said. “As a result, [the Marlins] kept us pinned. We were having trouble getting the ball out of our own half, so we spent the majority of the first half defending.”
Dodman, however, adjusted the alignment at halftime and his team dominated possession for most of the final 25 minutes.
“We switched to three forwards, two in the middle and three fullbacks and having that extra forward made the difference,” Dodman said.
The difference was indeed stark as Kaiser had the first six shots after halftime, including a penalty kick. But Mariners’ second-half goalkeeper Jenna Egan stopped the penalty kick near the right goal post and made two other saves to help protect the shutout.
In addition, Katie Egan, Jenna’s sister, shifted to defense to continually clear the ball out of danger inside the 18-yard box.
“Katie usually plays defense, but she also likes to play midfield, said Mariners Coach A.J. Egan, Katie and Jenna’s mother. “No one wants to play defense. Everyone wants to play forward.”
Maraya Drayton was an offensive catalyst for Kaiser, which failed to convert any of its shots, finishing with a 10-6 deficit in that department.
Kayla Wilson made three quality saves in the second half for Kaiser. She also sprinted off her line to smother a bounding ball in front of a charging Mariners attacker to avert another Marlins’ scoring chance.
“She has those thick-rimmed glasses, but she’s as tough as anyone,” Dodman said of Wilson.
Dodman praised his team’s virtual reversal of momentum in the second half.
“We had [the majority] of the [second-half] scoring chances, but we couldn’t put one in,” Dodman said. “But that’s soccer, right? But I love the fact that the [Kaiser] girls get to walk away feeling like they really competed. In that second half, I could see that they felt validated that they belonged on the field and it was an even match.
“I’m sure if we could do it all over again, we would come out a little faster. The coaches for Mariners really had their girls ready to play.”
Players and parents from both teams encouraged players from both teams, as many play together in Newport Beach AYSO Region 97, Dodman said.
“I thought the spirit displayed by both teams was fantastic and, for me, that’s what this is about,” Dodman said. “All these girls play in Region 97, unless they play club.”
Also contributing for the winners were Carley Palmer, Owen Stefano, Megan Elliot, Darby Bell, Kalen Serpa, Ava Gonzalez, Emma Kenny, Kenna Robar and Hannah Barrett.
Others showing their skills for Kaiser were Addie Stendal, Anna Wallburger, Bella Carmichael, Emma Coatsworth, Haley Dodman, Jacqueline Nowak, Joelle Rothbard, Madison Turcios and Sam Sick.