Slow starts hurt the Sea Kings, the top-ranked defending CIF champion, in losses to Huntington Beach and El Toro in last weekend's South Coast Tournament. They also had to rally from a four-goal deficit to top another Division II power, Long Beach Wilson, in a nonleague game Sept. 20.
"We'll be there at the end," CdM Coach Barry O'Dea said. "We're doing well. Only one player on this team got legit playing time on the varsity team last year, and that was Ben [Zepfel]. Ari [Marks] got a little bit in the [CIF] finals, and that's about it. So the rest of these guys are figuring out how to play these big-time, pressure games. You know, it's coming around. I think they're nervous a little bit, but that will start to diminish with time."
O'Dea's teams have never lost a league game in his six-plus years at CdM. Rarely have they been at close at the start as Tuesday's game, when Northwood took an early lead on R.J. Simmons' counterattack goal 26 seconds in. Sea Kings senior Wes Sherburne scored on the power play midway through the quarter, but the score was still just 1-1 after the first.
Corona del Mar (6-2) appeared tentative and Northwood (6-6), ranked No. 4 in Division II, had reason to be excited.
"Our big problem is we're coming out soft," said Zepfel, the senior center who scored a team-high three goals. "I think the main part of that is we're not finishing our opportunities early. We missed so many open shots in that first quarter. Not only did we not get any points on the board, but it leads to them having counterattacks, it leads to them going up. It leads to them building their confidence, which is something that can really hurt us. One of our main goals is really to sort of destroy their confidence in the beginning, then basically the game's over after the first quarter. But we came out pretty soft in that game."