By Justin Vigil-Zuniga
Signal Sports Writer
Corona Del Mar (13-5) routed the short-handed West Ranch Wildcats (7-10) in their Division 2 playoff opening-round matchup on Thursday.
The visiting Sea Kings were led by the lethal duo of Frankie Garcia and Abby Grace, who each had four-goal nights.
Corona exploded quickly and the team found itself up 3-0 in the first four minutes.
The Sea Kings never let off the gas and controlled possession throughout the first half. The team would be up eight goals before West Ranch netted its first score of the night.
The Wildcats were without seven starters for the team’s playoff opener due to illness. The team has a bug going around, forcing head coach Leesa Chelminiak to call up 12 junior varsity players for a huge game.
West Ranch freshman Julia Hoffman scored the first goal after a great spin move freed her before she launched one in between the sticks.
“In the beginning we weren’t as well-constructed,” said Hoffman. “We did well in the end in fighting through. If we couldn’t win at least we got that fight through.”
The freshman led the Wildcats with four goals on the night.
Hoffman’s twin sister, Allison, netted the second goal just before the halftime break.
Allison led the team during the regular season with 65 goals and 19 assists, an astounding mark for a freshman.
The sisters have been the catalyst for West Ranch’s varsity success all year.
“[Julia] was really good,” said Allison. “She practices a lot so I’m not surprised. Her shots were really good at the end.”
Corona’s passing and pressure were too much for the Cats early. West Ranch fell victim to a lot of smart passing and crossing, leading to clear paths to the goal.
The Wildcats clicked after going down big and played a strong second half.
The Sea Kings were still playing just as aggressively with several high sticks, flags and yellow cards, but the Cats endured.
The home team scored, its defense forced tougher shots and JV goalkeeper Bailey Borkowski caught fire to help give West Ranch new life in the second half.
The Wildcats could never pull within striking distance, but you wouldn’t be able to tell without looking at the scoreboard.
West Ranch kept the intensity high on the field as well as on the sideline with the entire team cheering and making noise all 50 minutes.
“I could not be prouder of what an amazing job they all did,” said Chelminiak. “As you saw at the end, we put up a nice fight once we got it all figured out. Usually we have all season to figure out the chess pieces as far as players need to go. We had to do it on the fly in one game.”
Both co-champions’ seasons ended on the same day and field, as Valencia also fell to Mira Costa in its opening-round game just before the Cats took the field.
West Ranch has a lot to look forward to with its JV players getting some serious experience in a varsity playoff game.
“The scoreboard may have not ended with a W,” said Chelminiak, “But in my opinion, we won on many different levels tonight.”