It has been an interesting season for the Newport Harbor High girls' soccer team, to say the least.
Upsetting Corona del Mar, 3-2, in the Battle of the Bay game in December was certainly a highlight. It was Newport's first win in the rivalry series in four years.
But days before that win, junior forward Gema Sanchez broke her fibula. And days after that win freshman sensation Sianna Siemonsma, up to that point the team's leading scorer, fractured her ankle.
The loss of firepower before the Sunset League began has hurt the Sailors, who sit at 0-3-3 in league with four games remaining.
"We have a lot of holes," Newport Harbor Coach Larry Draluck said. "Right now, we don't quite have a full team."
One thing that it's meant is that the Sailors have needed their senior captains more than ever. To that end, Jessi Prather and Rosalie Deliz have delivered for Newport Harbor.
Deliz, a four-year varsity player, has been steady at center back for the Sailors. She also scored on a free kick in a 1-1 tie with Huntington Beach on Thursday.
Prather, a three-year varsity player, has led the team with nine goals scored as she has played center midfield and forward. Prather, who has a 3.9 grade-point average at Harbor, has received academic and athletic scholarships to Colorado State University-Pueblo. She plans to sign with the ThunderWolves on Wednesday, in a ceremony at Newport Harbor.
"It's kind of been frustrating," Prather said of the Sailors' slide, which has them in last place in the six-team league. "But I don't know, I'm just in it for the fun. The girls are awesome ... I have to remember they're sophomores in high school. I think we have a lot of potential in the future. I would say three-fourths of our team is new this year, first-year varsity."
"A lot of the girls are just really, really young .... [but] we're just one big family. Me and Rosalie are the older sisters."
Draluck praised the play of Deliz and junior Brooke Zachry in the back. Deliz, who said she does not plan to play soccer in college, has enjoyed her role as an "older sister" to her teammates.
"It's definitely a lot of learning and teaching," Deliz said. "It's a little bit stressful sometimes, but I like the responsibility. It's nice to help someone else out."
The Sailors also have not been playing as poorly in league as their record suggests. Just one of their losses — a league-opening 2-0 setback against Huntington Beach — was by more than one goal. And one of the ties was against Fountain Valley, ranked No. 7 in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 poll.
Draluck said Siemonsma could return this upcoming week, when the Sailors play at Edison on Tuesday and at Fountain Valley on Thursday. Another player who has come back is junior midfielder Natalie Ward, a Notre Dame commit who was not playing high school soccer at the start of the season.
The CIF playoffs, a place Newport Harbor last reached two years ago, could still be a possibility if the Sailors get hot at the end of the season. Either way, they don't plan on giving up.
"I'm really excited," said Prather, whose older brother Garrett is a freshman baseball player at Northwestern Oklahoma State. "We started out losing to Huntington Beach 2-0, and we came back and we tied them 1-1. I'm hoping, and I'm hoping my team is having the same mentality as I am, that we're going to come back 10 times harder against Edison. They beat us 3-2 [the first time], but we're not going to let down.
"Just because we haven't won a game, that doesn't mean that you can just come and step on us and beat us that easy. They're going to have to fight really hard for that, and we're going to have to fight just as hard to get that result."
•The Irvine Southern California Championships, which is the last major regular season girls' water polo tournament for Newport Harbor and Corona del Mar, begins Thursday.
The Sailors (15-4) and Sea Kings (14-3) are seeded second and fourth, respectively, in the 32-team tournament. But it's arguably a more important tournament for CdM, which also is ranked No. 4 in Division 1, just behind Foothill.
Staying in that position is undesirable, as it would mean a possible CIF semifinal matchup with top-seeded Laguna Beach. So at the Irvine Southern California Championships, the Sea Kings will try to finish higher than Foothill to possibly grab the No. 3 seed in the Division 1 playoffs, which could mean a CIF semifinal Back Bay showdown with Newport Harbor. CdM and Foothill have split their two previous meetings this year, as have CdM and Newport Harbor.
The three-day Irvine Southern California Championships concludes Saturday. The championship match is scheduled for 3:15 p.m. at Woollett Aquatics Center. Santa Barbara is the defending tournament champion.
•Estancia plays host to Costa Mesa on Tuesday night in the second Battle for the Bell girls' basketball game, and it's a big one.
The Eagles (17-3, 5-1 in league) come into the game in first place in league, by themselves. That would change if Costa Mesa (12-9, 4-2), which is tied for second place with Laguna Beach, can win again.
The Mustangs won the first bell game, 67-64, on Jan. 14 at Costa Mesa in the Orange Coast League opener. But Estancia hasn't lost since.
Estancia, led by senior guard Celia Duran and sophomore guard Maya Van Den Heever, is trying to defend its outright league title. Costa Mesa, led by senior guard Danielle Obong and junior forward Aubriona Mathis, last won the league title in 2007-08.
Mathis is coming off a season-high 21 points in Thursday's 58-45 win over Godinez, which avenged the Mustangs' loss to the Grizzlies in the first round of league. She also did a stellar defensive job on Duran in the first meeting with Estancia, though Duran, last year's Newport-Mesa Player of the Year, still finished near her season average with 18 points.