"It's always been decided by a goal, maybe two at the most," Costa Mesa Coach Justin Taylor said. "It's just always close. This year, obviously, it's a little bit different. They're rebuilding, and we're having a pretty solid year so far. It's kind of nice to get a year off, where we don't have that intense battle."
This year, the Mustangs (11-3, 2-1 in league) are determined, and they have their pool back. Coach Tom Norton's Lightning (1-13, 0-3) are young, with no seniors.
Costa Mesa focused on stopping Sage sophomore Arya Nakhjavani, the Lightning's top scorer who scored 11 goals last week in a league game against Saddleback. He scored four of his team's five goals Wednesday, but Mesa also did an effective job dropping on him at two meters.
"Wyatt is a good set guard," said Mesa senior goalie Mitchell Grandia, who had a career-high 18 saves. "During practice we've been practicing a lot of that dropping, getting back and stuff like that. Today it was really good."
Grandia has been battling a sore left knee, but it didn't show against Sage. He had six saves in the first quarter alone as Mesa jumped out to an 8-0 lead. The Mustangs wanted this one, after losing to the Lightning by a goal each of the past two years.
Senior Matt Moore and junior Quinn Stone each scored three goals, and sophomore Tyler Connors scored twice.
Senior Jamie Sacco, junior Justin Velasquez and freshman Deighton Tachiki each added single goals for the Mustangs, who led, 12-2, at halftime and 17-3 after three quarters.
The counterattack was working for the Mustangs, who scored 20 goals for the second straight league game after beating Godinez, 20-6, last week. They also converted four of their five power-play opportunities.