CdM closing in on PCL boys' soccer crown

Jay Damon lined up toward the front, while Liam Stimpson headed for the back. The two formed a line with 22 other Corona del Mar High seniors and each held a rose.

On Friday, Coach George Larsen honored the seniors on his boys' soccer team and their parents. Players gave the rose to their mother.

The afternoon wasn't so rosy for Damon and Stimpson. Damon is back with the team after missing time with mononucleosis. Stimpson almost didn't make it prior to CdM playing host to University in a key Pacific Coast League match.

"Liam was over in between the storage containers [near the field] and he's throwing up," Larsen said. "I said, 'Are you all right?' He goes, 'I'm all right.' "

Two of the Sea Kings' top players gutted it out and CdM remained in first place in league.

Stimpson's corner kick set up the lone goal, and Damon helped host CdM shut down University, 1-0. The Sea Kings are unbeaten in league and on their way to winning the league title for the third time in five seasons under Larsen.

The result puts CdM (12-3-4, 6-0-2 in league) four points ahead of University (7-7-2, 5-2-1). With two league matches left, the Sea Kings just have to beat Northwood or Beckman on the road next week to wrap up first.

"It's not over, said Martin Carrington, University's coach, "but the type of [soccer the Sea Kings] play, and they have size, and they have quality all over the field, so I don't really expect [us to catch them]."

University came up short against a CdM team that is still not 100%. The Sea Kings are seeing players like Damon and Nate Pozin (knee) return to the field and they make a difference.

Damon made his presence felt in the back, along with Daniel McCabe. The defense this week has lifted the team, not only by stopping the opposition, but by also getting involved on the offensive side.

McCabe is the player who put away CdM's best scoring chance against University. In the 32nd minute, right after Stimpson's corner kick bounced deep into the box, McCabe kicked the ball past goalkeeper Michael Armand's right side.

McCabe's first goal of the season is all CdM needed to hand the Trojans their first setback since a 2-1 loss to Woodbridge in a league opener on Jan. 10. The Sea Kings, with keepers Tommy Casey and Stonor Boyse combining for seven saves, became the third team to blank Uni this season.

"Pretty proud of them because it wasn't our best stuff and we weren't set up for it to be our best stuff," said Larsen, adding that his leading goal scorer, John O'Connor, also played sick. "We just knew it was going to be a struggle, it was going to be a grind. We knew University was going to play really well. [The Trojans] played us really well last time [a 2-2 tie on Jan. 17]. As you can see, they're a quality team. They knock the ball good. They have some real technical players who are savvy."

University won the play at midfield for the most part, but once its players tried to get past the last line of defense, McCabe and Damon pushed back.

Boyse also punched away a dangerous corner from Mel McCurrie in the 51st minute. A minute later, McCurrie earned another corner, only to see McCabe head it out of the box.

Damon also used his head. When the Sea Kings' passing got sloppy halfway through the second half, he spoke up, telling teammates, "Settle down and play our passes." They responded and the Sea Kings went on to win their fifth straight match.

"He's just recovering from mono," said Larsen, impressed by Damon, who in his first match back on Wednesday recorded a goal in CdM's 2-1 win at home against Woodbridge. "He wasn't feeling well, but he's sucking it up."

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