Miranda Stiver was more than a little bit intimidated when she entered the Corona del Mar High girls' soccer program as a sophomore.
Stiver moved from Arcadia to Newport Beach in the fall of 2011 with her mother, step-dad and younger brother. The family wanted to be closer to the headquarters of PIMCO, the Newport Beach-based investment management firm for which Miranda's mother, Christina, works.
The commute for Christina was indeed severely reduced. Miranda did not have so much trouble fitting in at CdM in the classroom, but on the soccer field she had doubts.
At Arcadia High, she was the cream of the crop. But she entered a CdM program in 2011-12 that was perhaps the program's best in terms of overall talent. One website ranked CdM No. 2 in the state at one point, and the Sea Kings finished 22-3-2, collecting the top seed in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs before a disappointing quarterfinal loss to Santa Margarita.
Stepping on the same pitch with players like then-senior captains Ally Brahs (now at Washington), goalkeeper Sarah Cox (Stanford), Amanda Stephenson (George Mason) and Sydney Raguse (Michigan) was a bit of an eye-opener for Stiver. She was just 15 years old at the time.
"It was so intimidating, oh my God," Miranda Stiver said. "At Arcadia, I was the best player as a freshman, then I came here. I think sophomore year, I was the only one on the field that wasn't committed [to play in college] at that point. I didn't even think I was going to make the team. But it ended up working out and being amazing ... They helped me a lot, just to see how the game can be played in a different way than I had seen ever before."
Stiver fit in with that year's team at right midfielder, helping CdM win its second straight outright Pacific Coast League title. Two years later, the Oregon State signee Stiver is a forward and senior captain who is helping to keep that legacy going. The Daily Pilot Athlete of the Week has helped the Sea Kings collect two more outright league crowns.
None has been as crazy as this year's. CdM improbably won two games last week to claim that title. The Sea Kings beat Beckman, 2-1, on Feb. 11 at Tustin High, surviving when a Patriots penalty kick went over the cage in the final seconds. Two days later, they mounted a crazy comeback, scoring three goals in the final 20 minutes to stun Northwood, 3-2, and claim that outright league crown. It was the Timberwolves' only league loss of the season.
"I think those are the craziest games I've played in," Stiver said of the final two league games. "Both of them ... but I feel like it was a cool way to win it, just off of two crazy and insane games. It was a lot of excitement."
Anyone who knows Stiver, also a high-level club player for Slammers FC, knows that she wouldn't quit at Northwood, even as the Sea Kings fell behind 2-0 early in the second half. She cut the lead in half in the 65th minute, scoring on an assist from junior midfielder Shelby Brown.
Five minutes later, Stiver assisted Brown, who scored near the top-right side of the box to tie the score and give CdM all of the momentum.
"I would never personally give up on anything," Stiver said. "I mean, 2-0 is the most dangerous score in soccer. The [United States] women's hockey team had a 2-0 lead [against Canada on Thursday in the Olympic gold medal game], and they gave it up. It's such a deceiving score.
"You only need one goal to get back in it. For me, I had zero sense of, 'We're done, this is over.' I've been on both sides of the 2-0 thing, so I knew that there was no reason to give up. Once we scored [the first goal], of course everyone got back into it."
Freshman Hunter Gantos scored the game-winning goal in stoppage time for CdM.
Stiver and Brown, club teammates on Slammers, have meshed together very well for CdM. Stiver, a young senior at CdM who won't turn 18 years old until September, is only about three weeks older than Brown.
Their personalities are different, as Stiver is considerably more feisty. She has been a consistent threat up top for CdM. Despite missing a few games in league with a hamstring injury, and then with sickness, she entered Friday's game tied with Brown for the team lead with five goals.
"She has a very high-level work rate," CdM Coach Bryan Middleton said. "Basically, when she's on the field, she's giving 100% the whole time and never lets up. It's something you can't teach."
That tenacious quality will serve her well with the Beavers, where she was recruited as a right defender. First, she has some unfinished business in high school.
A day after the crazy win at Northwood, Stiver left for a family vacation in Hawaii, staying on the North Shore of Oahu. She got back Thursday night, before the Sea Kings began play in the Division 1 playoffs against Fountain Valley on Friday night at Jim Scott Stadium.
CdM beat Fountain Valley in a shootout, 4-3, the third straight crazy victory. The Sea Kings advance to the second round, where they'll play host to Upland on Wednesday. An extended CIF run would mean a lot to Stiver. CdM lost in the second round to Esperanza last year.