EASTVALE — The heat started getting to the Corona del Mar High girls' soccer team early in its pool-play opener Friday at the North Orange County Classic.
CdM isn't even playing in Orange County for the tournament, but instead at Roosevelt High in Riverside County. And, in late December, the temperatures in the mid-80s at around noon did not really sit well with the girls from the beach.
CdM still got past its first pool-play opponent Charter Oak, 1-0. But a couple of hours later, Roosevelt senior forward Angela Mitchell got past the CdM defense.
Mitchell's first-half goal helped the host Mustangs beat the Sea Kings, 1-0, in both teams' second and final pool-play game. It ensured that Roosevelt would win Pool K.
CdM (3-3-2) finished second in the three-team pool. The Sea Kings will continue their tournament against Fountain Valley, the second-place team from Pool L, at 9:30 a.m. Saturday back at Roosevelt High.
The Sea Kings had less than two hours after beating Charter Oak before they had to face Roosevelt in the second pool-play game. They needed to beat the hosts to win the pool. The speedy Mitchell, who plays on the same Legends FC club team as CdM junior Birkley Sigband, made it extremely hard for CdM to do so with her first-half goal.
CdM Coach Bryan Middleton identified Mitchell as "speed lightning" and "beyond a handful" before the game. In the 18th minute, she acted the part. She gained control of a high-bouncing ball near the top right side of the box, beating both her defender and the charging CdM goalkeeper on the play. Mitchell ended up with an empty net and put the ball away.
The Sea Kings, missing several players, had chances in the second half. Many of them were created by a trio of freshmen: forward Hunter Gantos, forward Shelby Guerena and midfielder Leah Givant. They helped CdM earn several free kicks with a chance to even the score.
Sigband served them into the box, but each time Roosevelt was able to clear the ball or make a save.
Both of CdM's usual takers of free kicks, juniors Shelby Brown and Brianna Westrup, are out of action this weekend. Brown is still missing time due to a concussion suffered in the Battle of the Bay game last week, while Westrup is visiting family in Scotland during CdM's winter break. Westrup also is great on the receiving end of Brown's free kicks into the box, specifically on headers.
"Missing those two, it's not the complete difference in the game, but it's a game-changer when we have them back," Middleton said.
CdM is also still missing sophomore midfielder Chloe Rice (foot), senior forward Jayden Smith (coming back from ACL injury) and junior forward Zoe Condon (ankle), though Middleton hopes to have all of them back in the coming weeks as the Sea Kings try to defend their three straight outright Pacific Coast League titles. Middleton said that junior Brynn Motal (ACL), a Newport-Mesa Dream Team selection a year ago at defender, is most likely out for the season.
The CdM defense in place, including senior Molly Keasey, junior Brianna Mahaney and freshman Christina "Peanut" Venturini, did well at times Friday. Senior goalkeeper Kendall Mulvaney made five saves against Roosevelt, including one where she dove left to snag a shot after a corner kick.
"Tournaments are just a really good opportunity for us to practice playing together," said senior forward Sabrina Roy, who scored CdM's goal in the win over Charter Oak. "Since some other players are out, we're not used to some players in different positions. It gives us time to get acclimated to each other."
Roy scored her goal in the 56th minute against Charter Oak. She took Sigband's cross from the right, and her shot rattled off the inside of the left post and in.
But CdM had several near-misses earlier in the second half that ultimately hurt the Sea Kings' chances of winning the pool. Roosevelt beat Charter Oak, 2-0, on Friday morning, so the hosts were ahead of CdM headed into the final pool-play game because the Sea Kings beat Charter Oak by only a one-goal margin.
CdM will close out its tournament with a pair of games Saturday. After that, the Sea Kings won't play again until their PCL opener, at home against Irvine on Jan. 9.
Roy, who leads the Sea Kings with two goals scored this season, said she is liking what she sees so far.
"We have a good group of girls this year," Roy said. "We all get along really well, which is really helpful in girls' soccer."