Girls' Soccer: CdM opens with draw

LAKE FOREST — Wearing all-black uniforms is a new thing for the Corona del Mar High girls' soccer team.

"It's sick," senior forward Miranda Stiver said of the uniform the Sea Kings wore Tuesday night, which featured baby blue trim and white numbers. "I love it."

Stiver said CdM has four new jerseys and three new colors of shorts. There will be no shortage of accessorizing options for CdM.

"That's a really nice thing for the season," Stiver said. "I think the girls are really excited for that, especially for our senior year."

The style department wasn't the only thing that showed promise for the Sea Kings in their season opener at El Toro. CdM dominated the scoring opportunities, though the Sea Kings eventually had to settle for a scoreless tie.

Stiver, an Oregon State commit, created a handful of scoring chances from right forward, particularly in the first half. She is one of three Division 1 college commits for CdM, a list which also includes senior goalkeeper Kendall Mulvaney (University of Denver) and junior defender Brianna Westrup (University of Virginia).

Each played critical roles for CdM (0-0-1) against El Toro (2-0-3). But the Sea Kings, who are expected to be without four projected starters at least until league begins, also showed their depth.

As importantly to Stiver, they showed their enthusiasm.

"The soccer will come, but the work ethic and the heart and the desire were all there," she said. "That's what's really important, especially for our first game of the season. We can work on our possession and our free kicks and all of that stuff, but you can't really teach girls to put 100% in. That was a really good sign for today, and I'm really proud of us. We all worked so hard, and I think that's a really, really good sign for the season to come."

Out of CdM's four missing starters, Coach Bryan Middleton hopes to get three of them back before the season ends. The one who is most likely lost for the season is junior defender Brynn Motal (ACL), a Newport-Mesa Dream Team and third-team All-CIF selection a year ago.

Motal was one of four CdM players, along with Westrup, Stiver and Shelby Brown, who was on the Slammers FC Under-16 girls' team that finished as Elite Clubs National League finalists last July in Virginia.

Middleton said he wants to get sophomore outside midfielders Caroline Bethel and Chloe Rice, both of whom are coming back from foot injuries, back for Pacific Coast League play. He added that senior forward Jayden Smith (ACL) also could be out for the season, although he hopes to get her back near the end.

CdM, tied for No. 10 in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 rankings, still looked good, especially on defense. The defense led by Westrup, Mulvaney, senior Molly Keasey and juniors Tori English and Elise Roche, was able to neutralize El Toro's big threat, sophomore forward Gwen Maly, who came into the contest with four goals scored.

Another Chargers sophomore, Kaiya McCullough, created chances for the hosts with her inspired runs up the field. But Mulvaney (five saves) usually had the answer.

Mulvaney has shared the starting goalie spot the last two years, but this year it's hers alone. Middleton said sophomore keeper Kat Hess, a member of the under-17 national team, has transferred to JSerra for academic reasons.

"Kendall was phenomenal tonight," Middleton said. "She looked like the Division 1 goalkeeper that she's going to be. She was one of the best players on the field, and came up big on a couple of saves that were one-on-one. Her maturity on the ball and decision-making are awesome. This is her senior year, and this is her ship back there."

CdM's best scoring chance came in the 65th minute, when junior Zoe Condon's rocket from 25 yards out hit the bottom of the crossbar and bounced down — but not in. Senior forward Sabrina Roy was there on the rebound, but her chance was snuffed out by El Toro keeper Megan Boyd.

Condon tweaked her ankle in the closing minutes, leaving the game, but still felt like her shot crossed the line as it bounced down.

"That was a goal," she said defiantly after the game ended.

The Sea Kings will have to create more goal-scoring chances against some tough opponents in the preseason. After playing host to Trabuco Hills on Thursday, they begin the Mater Dei Invitational on Saturday at 5 p.m. at Jim Scott Stadium. The opponent is Canyon, which is tied for 10th in Division 1 along with CdM.

CdM's third game of the Mater Dei Invitational is Dec. 20 against Aliso Niguel, ranked No. 2 in Division 1. And in between those games the Sea Kings play host to rival Newport Harbor in the always intense Battle of the Bay on Dec. 17.

"That's perfect," Stiver said. "I think this preseason, out of the ones I can remember, is probably the toughest. We haven't played an Aliso or a Canyon in the past preseasons. I think for this year, that's a really good challenge for us. I'm really excited, and I know the team's really excited, to see what we're made of, which is good."

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