It's understood what Newport Harbor High girls' soccer coach Larry Draluck means when he calls his Sailors "the stepsisters" of the Battle of the Bay rivalry.
Corona del Mar is more talented in most years and also more high-profile, with a handful of Division 1 recruits.
"Usually, they are like big-time," Draluck said.
But on Tuesday afternoon at CdM, the stepsisters played a beautiful game of "the beautiful game."
Newport Harbor took it to the host Sea Kings, hanging on for a 3-2 upset victory, the Sailors' first in the series in four years.
Junior Toni Holland, freshman Sianna Siemonsma and senior Jessi Prather all scored for Newport Harbor (4-4), which overcame an early deficit and rallied after a lackluster showing at last week's Aliso Cup, where the Sailors lost three of four games.
"One of the wonderful things about soccer is that it's an unpredictable sport," Draluck said. "I hoped that my girls would compete, and they definitely did that, so I'm happy. We played to clog the midfield. Yeah, they were holding the ball and doing some things, but they couldn't really get behind [us]. We clogged the midfield a little bit, and I think once we scored a goal we came out of our shell and were a little more confident. At the beginning of the game, from my standpoint, we were nervous."
The nervous play was not helped as CdM (1-1-2) took the lead in the 21st minute after a corner kick by junior Shelby Brown. Senior Miranda Stiver volleyed the ball back into the box, and CdM freshman Hunter Gantos tapped it back Newport junior keeper Erika Nilsson.
CdM boys' soccer players in the stands started a chant of "If you're winning and you know it, clap your hands." But the Sailors hung in there.
Twelve minutes later, Holland tied the score, directing a perfectly placed header off Prather's corner kick into the right side of the goal. Holland, who was a steady midfielder for the Sailors, said she was inspired by junior teammate Gema Sanchez, who broke her leg in a victory over Peninsula on Saturday.
"We tried to do it for Gema, because that's what she would have wanted," Holland said.
The Sailors took the lead just two minutes into the second half, when Siemonsma stole the ball after a CdM defensive miscommunication. She was able to score on her shot from the left, which came from an extreme angle.
Siemonsma said she was afraid she was going to miss the shot into the empty net. But senior defender Rosalie Deliz, part of a stellar defensive effort hat included players like Brooke Zachry, Melisa Camano, Paige Fults and Nilsson (four saves), was not surprised that the freshman nailed it.
"She fights so hard in every game," Deliz said of Siemonsma, who at 5-foot-8 is unable to be pushed around despite her freshman status. "This chick, she is vicious. I don't even want to go up against her. She will take you down and get the ball from you."
Newport Harbor added an insurance goal in the 61st minute. Sophomore Allyson Nordlie had frustrated CdM with a couple of physical challenges in the first half. This time, Nordlie was taken down in the box by a CdM defender, earning a penalty kick. Prather, who has committed to Colorado State Pueblo, put it away.
CdM brought center back Brianna Westrup up to forward in the closing minutes, and she was just off with a couple of header tries coming from corner kicks. Stiver scored on a sliding strike from the right side with less than two minutes to go, but soon the final whistle had blown.
"Everyone makes mistakes," CdM Coach Bryan Middleton said. "We're going to learn from them in the preseason, so when we go forward into league we don't make those same mistakes. It's a learning curve in the preseason. This team is a little bit younger than how we've been in the past couple of years ... [but] anyone can win the Battle of the Bay and Newport Harbor proved that today. They played with some heart."
It won't get easier this week for the Sea Kings, who are tied for No. 10 in CIF Southern Section Division 1. They play their second group game of the Mater Dei Premier Invitational tournament Thursday against Corona Santiago, ranked No. 3 in Division 2. Their final group game Friday is against Aliso Niguel, the top-ranked team in Division 1.
Newport Harbor opens play at the North Orange County Classic on Dec. 27. Draluck said he hopes that Tuesday's win leads to more confidence in the future.
Talking to Deliz after the upset victory, that appeared likely to be the case.
"It's the last year [for the seniors] so it's really great," Deliz said. "I knew we could do it. We fight really well together, and we all play together. I love this team so much. They all fought until the very end, and I couldn't ask for anything more.
"We got so close last year, and then it was just taken at the last minute [in a 2-1 loss on a late CdM goal]. This year, the fact that we got to fight through it and won, I can't believe it."