A sizzling start to the season has Corona del Mar High School‘s girls’ soccer team thinking CIF Southern Section championship, what would be the Sea Kings’ first. Their eighth straight victory fleshed out the possibility, provided form to the plan.
It didn’t necessarily show up on the scoreboard — their 4-0 romp on a misty Thursday evening at overmatched Estancia was built on goals in the first 33 minutes — but once junior forward Marly Paul, midfielder Logan Stern and sophomore winger Payton Vovan took the field near the end of the first half, CdM was a different team.
The trio, making their season debuts following club commitments, gave the Sea Kings (8-0-0) a sharper, sleeker look: stronger in possession, more proactive in attack, flowing with ideas. The execution was hit and miss, more miss than hoped for, but it offered a nifty preview of what Bryan Middleton’s team could be in the new year.
“Those three, it’s going to be huge,” Middleton said when it was over. “That’s going to give us composure on the field, and we’ll create definitely more goal-scoring opportunities and we’ll keep more possession of the ball in our offensive half. Hopefully, we can keep the ball enough not to let other teams attack against us.”
That’s a tough ask. Powerhouses Los Alamitos and Edison await in the Surf League, but a drop to Division 2 provides a foundation for the title talk.
“This year… we hope to go farther than we normally have gone,” said senior Jane Paulsen, who sets the foundation in midfield or in the back, in both spots Thursday. “The addition of those three, we’ve definitely gotten a bit stronger, but our team was still good without them.”
Corona del Mar demonstrated that from the start, spending nearly the entire first half in its attacking third. Brea Sofferman scored twice, tucking the ball into the right corner in the seventh and 26th minutes. Kayla Spreen made it 2-0 in the 20th minute, and Ellie Rosing’s finale was set up with Vovan’s first touch of the game.
Paul, then Vovan, and finally Stern, came on from the 28th through 35th minutes, and it had immediate effect. The Sea Kings, rather static most of the first half, improved their movement with and off the ball, and poor finishing — along with some fine positional defending by the Eagles (2-5), a Division 5 side — deprived them of more goals, but they were far more fluid.
“They play the ball with each other and just make passes and find ways to get it in,” Paulsen said. “It looks really, really good, too.”
CdM was in command throughout, doing most of what it pleased everywhere except in Estancia’s box. The Eagles’ back line, anchored by sophomores Ava Johner and Elly Goan and aided by Jocelyn Pacheco’s move from midfield about midway through the first half, plugged the passing lanes and presented a defensive maze that often confounded the Sea Kings.
The opportunities were there. CdM had huge advantages in shots (27-2), shots on goal (17-2) and genuine chances (28-1). The connections will tighten now that everyone is aboard.
“We just need to work on finishing our chances,” Stern said. “We definitely have the urgency to get forward. It’s getting the connections.”
And when that happens, watch out.
“We definitely could take it very far in CIF,” she said. “I think we really have a chance at winning.”
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