COSTA MESA — Newport Coast Elementary Coach Ramzi Ammari has the rarest of rosters for the fifth- and sixth-grade girls' silver division in the Daily Pilot Cup youth soccer tournament.
In the Coyotes' tournament-opening 2-0 victory over Whittier on Thursday at Davis Elementary, they displayed depth, balance, passion, unselfishness and organization.
But after completely dominating the pace of the game and amassing a 21-2 advantage in saves, there is at least one area of concern for Ammari as his team moves ahead:
"The goalkeeper position is probably the most challenging to fill," said Ammari, who praised the heart and Johna Zahed, who made one save but faced her greatest challenge trying to stay entertained while the ball remained at the other end of the field virtually the entire game. "It's tough to find a player who wants to play that position. As she came off the field after the game, Zahed said she didn't really do much.
That would make Zahed unique among her teammates, who darted and dashed to control most loose balls and did their collective best to direct their energy toward cohesive scoring chances.
Twice a Coyote player bounced a shot off the cross bar and at least a handful of shots were directed just wide of the goal.
Whittier goalie Alondra Martinez made 11 saves and defenders Brianna Coyotzi and Neila Mora also distinguished themselves by diffusing several Newport Coast offensive threats.
But most of Whittier's efforts amounted to damage control against the Coyotes, who bunched their two goals late in the first half and early in the second.
Monique Martin opened the scoring, directing a cross from Morgan Snyder into the goal in the 24th minute.
Just four minutes after halftime, Karly Recker booted a through ball that Cerise Cornman ran onto inside the 18-yard box. Cornman, running toward the goal, dribbled the ball neatly around Martinez, who had come off her line to charge the play. Cornman then merely nudged the ball into the open net.
Whittier, which battled to the end for Coach Jason Arroyo, registered its first shot just before halftime and didn't have another shot, its first on goal, until the final minute of the contest.
The Dolphins had won their first game, 4-3, behind a hat trick from Araceli Manriquez and another goal from Melissa Lima.
But the shots flowed throughout for the neon-green clad Newport Coast unit, for which Cornman was the most active orchestrator.
Martin and Mickelsen were also in the middle of the offensive onslaught for the winners, who received strong sideline runs from Sarah Schoenbaum and Recker.
Mickelsen and Recker are the lone sixth-graders on the team.
Sophia Harvey, Paris Ammari and Darya Wosoughkia also helped Newport Coast control possession, while Sophia Rhee helped anchor a back line that always seemed to be in position.
"It's a good squad," Ramzi Ammari said. "I think we figured out their positions early in our practices and we stuck with those positions. All of them play soccer. We probably have a handful of club players and the rest are AYSO players."
The Newport Coast coach said his team has been practicing for nearly four weeks and had three scrimmages in preparation for the Pilot Cup.
"But the first game is the most nervous one, because they are not sure what to expect," Ramzi Ammari said."But they got through it, played well and played as a team. We're trying to get them to talk a little bit more on the field."
The elder Ammari also said he would like to see more scoring chances converted into goals.
"Hopefully, we saved some [goals] up for the next game," Ramzi Ammari said.
The remaining contributors for Whittier were Dalia Bravo, Leslie Naranjo, Heidi Segovia, Daniela Ortega, Michelle Villa, Carla Leon, Britney Guzman, Iris Trujillo, Marie Soler, Jocelyn Navarro, Ariana Sanchez and Shelly Bosques.