Missing two of its top three goal scorers for Tuesday night's Pacific Coast League clash with Beckman, the Corona del Mar High girls' soccer team was a bit short-handed.
The Sea Kings already rely plenty on set pieces for their goals, but that seemed to become even more important.
What that really meant was that it was junior midfielder Shelby Brown's time to shine.
Brown had a free-kick goal and a corner-kick assist as CdM edged Beckman at Jim Scott Stadium, 2-1, to move into second place in league.
The Sea Kings (7-4-2, 3-1 in league), the three-time defending outright league champions, moved past the Patriots (5-7-5, 2-1-1 in league) with six league games remaining.
Northwood (3-0-1 in league) remained in first place in league after beating University, 5-2, in another league game Tuesday. CdM plays host to Northwood in a first-place showdown on Thursday at 3:15 p.m. at CdM.
Corona del Mar coach Bryan Middleton said he hopes for a big home crowd for that game. The fans at Tuesday's game saw CdM rally, after Beckman's Drew Decker scored in the first five minutes of the game. Decker stuck the ball in near the right post after a cross from the Patriots' Devanshi Mehta.
CdM did not panic, even as it was missing senior forward Miranda Stiver (hamstring) and junior midfielder Birkley Sigband (flu). Brown brought the Sea Kings even in the 27th minute, after senior forward Sabrina Roy was fouled on the right side, just outside of the box.
Brown took a direct shot that went hard off the goalie and into the back of the net.
"Everyone was lined up on the 18 [near the top of the box], so it was just a straight path to the goal," Brown said. "I just thought it'd be better if I took a shot."
She struck again in the 36th minute, this time after Roy earned a corner kick. Brown's kick found the head of junior Elise Roche, who redirected the ball toward the goal. It bounced off the left goal post and in, giving CdM the halftime lead.
The Sea Kings are not too used to playing from behind in league. Last week's 2-0 loss at University was just the program's third loss in the last four years.
"It was kind of a wake-up call last week when we lost," said Brown, who missed time last month with a concussion before returning for league play. "We know we have the talent, but if we put the effort in, we come out with the a win. [Defending the league title] puts pressure on us, but it kind of makes it more fun."
CdM was able to shut down the Patriots in the second half behind a back line of senior Molly Keasey, junior Brianna Westrup, sophomore Allie Doherty and freshman Christina Venturini. Senior keeper Kendall Mulvaney made four saves, none bigger than when she stopped Emily Baeza's shot in the box in the opening minute of the second half.
Mehta, who scored two goals last week against Irvine, had another good chance for the visitors midway through the second half. But her shot whistled just over the net.
"The girls are playing well, good energy, working hard," Beckman Coach Gordon Scott said. "The league's very balanced. I think it's one of those years where it's just kind of wide open. You can't take anybody for granted. It's a very competitive league."
Middleton said his team was coming off its best practice of the year on Monday.
"This should help us get our momentum going again," he said of the victory. "[Sigband] was kind of 50-50 for tonight, so I hope to have her for Thursday. Miranda's probably a game-time decision."
Short-handed or not, the Sea Kings will be ready to face Northwood.
They know what Brown can do for them.
"They're going to be tough," she said of facing the Timberwolves. "I think if we put in the effort that we put in today, though, that we can hang with them."