By David Carrillo Peñaloza
10:04 PM PST, December 18, 2012
COSTA MESA — As a high school girls' soccer coach, Larry Draluck says he needs to make the sport fun for his players. One way he tries to is by bringing out two Beanie Babies to Newport Harbor matches.
But with the team's recent struggles, he decided against it. The team hadn't won since its season opener three weeks ago.
"I told the girls that [the Beanie Baby named] 'Kicks' was staying inside my jacket until they scored," Draluck said.
Draluck lived up to his end on Tuesday night. He sat each stuffed animal on the bench as the Sailors were on their way to a 3-1 nonleague victory at Estancia.
The girls smiled at the sight of the two Beanie Babies and their first win since Nov. 27.
Draluck said the team needed a boost of confidence. Next for the Sailors is what Draluck called an uphill battle. Newport Harbor (2-5-1) plays at Corona del Mar (5-1-0) in the Battle of the Bay on Thursday at 3:15 p.m.
"That's a heck of a team," Draluck said of CdM, ranked No. 2 in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 poll.
Bryan Middleton, CdM's coach, traveled to Estancia to scout the Sailors. He sat in the cold on the home side.
Draluck grinned when he heard Middleton attended the match.
"Like I would never scout a team," Draluck said. "High school, I'm scouting."
What Middleton saw was the Sailors turn in their best offensive performance of the early season. They snapped a four-game scoreless rut.
Natalie Ward ended Newport Harbor's scoring drought in the 35th minute. The sophomore was in the right place after Jill Messersmith's 32-yard free kick bounced deep in the box. With the keeper allowing the ball to bounce, Ward, in traffic, found the back of the net.
Ward was just getting started.
She found herself in scoring position again after the keeper was unable to hold onto Courtney Buck's shot from the right. Ward got to the ball and knocked in the rebound in the 59th minute to give the Sailors a 2-0 lead.
It had been three weeks since the last time the Sailors scored two goals in a match. The players on the bench began to celebrate, only to get Draluck's attention. He told them to focus because the match wasn't over.
In the 71st minute, Draluck relaxed a little. The Beanie Babies were on full display, rightfully so after seeing Felicity Giddings find the back of the net on a volley just inside the box.
"We've had a tough string of games where we haven't been getting a lot of goals, so we'll take it," said Draluck, before turning to Estancia Coach Jessica Perry and praising Brandi White, the Eagles' standout freshman.
White made sure the Sailors didn't record their first shutout. She scored late for the Eagles (2-2-5), who have gone a couple of weeks without a win.
"I thought our first 25 minutes were awesome," said Perry, whose team plays host to Oxford Academy on Thursday at 3 p.m. "Mentally, I think we had a little bit of a lapse and then weren't really able to snap out of it."