RANCHO SANTA MARGARITA — Corona del Mar High sophomore Maddie Musselman managed to score a key goal, get a key steal and frustrate her head coach — all within the final minute of the game.
The first two actions were key in helping the Sea Kings earn an 8-6 victory over host Santa Margarita in the Holiday Cup quarterfinals on Friday. Even the third ended up providing a unifying moment for the Sea Kings.
Musselman dumped the ball with seven seconds left on the shot clock. CdM Coach Ross Sinclair, who ended up a bit aggravated by this, said after the game that she was looking at the scoreboard and saw a "one," which she thought indicated the shot clock but actually indicated that CdM had one timeout left. CdM dodged a bullet after the dump, as an Eagles counterattack pass was stolen by goalie Heidi Ritner.
The happy-go-lucky Musselman eventually smiled at her coach barking at her during the ensuing timeout, and soon her teammates in the water were smiling and laughing with her.
"They know it's never anything personal," said Sinclair, who himself managed to crack a smile. "It's always to help everybody out ... The best coaches I ever played for are the ones that knew when to push you and knew when to let off. Of course [I smiled]. It's fun; I love this."
CdM (4-0) will play tournament favorite Laguna Beach in a semifinal game at 11:45 a.m. Saturday at Newport Harbor High. The host Sailors face Foothill in the first semifinal at 10:40. The championship game is scheduled for 4:05 p.m.
The Sea Kings expected a battle against Santa Margarita (4-1) and they got it, even after taking a 4-1 halftime lead behind goals from seniors Marina Coskinas and Bobbi Hoose, junior Eliza Britt and Musselman. The game was intense, as Sinclair and Eagles Coach Brian Weathersby both received yellow cards in the opening quarter.
Santa Margarita senior Haley Wan scored twice in the third quarter to bring the hosts closer. Her third goal of the game, from the outside, pulled defending CIF Southern Section Division 2 champion Santa Margarita within 5-4 headed into the final quarter.
"This was no picnic," Sinclair said. "They're legit, they're a great team, well-coached and they've got great players. Obviously, Haley is a handful on both ends of the court. But for us, it was great. I told them it was going to be a dogfight, and it was ... It's a good character-building game that we can fall back on in the future, hopefully give us that kick to get over the hump when we need it."
Momentum continued to swing. Musselman stole a poor outlet pass and scored on a long lob to again push the lead to two, but Santa Margarita senior Kelli Baumgardner added a six-on-five strike.
Coskinas, who drew six exclusions and played the whole game, added a lob from set. But then Baumgardner struck again, on a deflected goal with 3:26 left in the game.
That trimmed CdM's lead to 7-6, but Musselman had answers. She took advantage of being left open after a miscommunication, giving the Sea Kings an insurance goal with 58 seconds left. Then she added a steal with 35 seconds left, before the dump at the end. Musselman also won each quarter-starting sprint; the one starting the second quarter kept the Sea Kings on the power play.
"Four extra possessions a game, that's good with me," Sinclair said. "She's great. That's Maddie. I've known her since she was 9 at junior 'guards. She's always got a smile on her face and loves what she does."
Musselman had three goals and three steals for CdM, which struggled on its power play (two for eight) but held Santa Margarita to one for six with the extra player. Coskinas scored twice, and Annie Mortimer added a goal, two assists and field block.
CdM will have a big challenge against the Breakers, but the Sea Kings have proven to be resilient lately. They have been practicing at Newport Harbor the past two weeks, as their pool has been closed due to the installation of locker rooms.
"It's tough, but we know we've got to put the work in to get where we want to go," Coskinas said. "We obviously want to win, so if we really want to get there we want to take the extra step and not just relax. [Practice] has been at our rivals' pool, so that's not fun, but we still have to push ourselves and stay together."
CdM opened the tournament earlier Friday with a 25-1 win over Palos Verdes. Grace Morgan had three goals, while Hoose, senior Kampbell Gritsch and junior Shannon Frome each scored twice. Ritner made 11 saves.