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Roche helps CdM believe

Daily Pilot High School Athlete of the Week

Sea Kings have improved from rough start and now lead Pacific Coast League thanks to junior striker.

January 26, 2012|By David Carrillo PeƱaloza
(Kevin Chang / Daily…)

Coach George Larsen, as he does with every team he leads, walked up to the Corona del Mar High boys' soccer team before the season.

Conor Roche knew what to expect during the meeting. He played under Larsen last season.

This season was going to be much different. The team lost many key starters, some graduated and a handful opted to play for academy teams, instead of their high school.

Roche was one of two starters returning to play for Larsen.

Larsen treated Roche and the rest of the young team the same way as last season's talented one.

"You guys go over there," Larsen ordered his players away from him. "[Figure out] what your goals are, and then you guys come back to me and tell me what you want to accomplish, what you want to get out of this experience. This is your team. I'm going to be the guy who is going to help you down that road to try and accomplish those things."

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Roche and his teammates decided on three goals.

The first was beating Newport Harbor in the Battle of the Bay rivalry match.

The second was winning the Pacific Coast League title.

The third was making a deep run in the CIF Southern Section Division III playoffs.

None of those goals seemed plausible after how the Sea Kings began the season.

Two matches into CdM's season, the best the Sea Kings managed against Newport Harbor was a 1-1 tie.

Eight matches into CdM's season, the Sea Kings managed to win just once.

"A lot of people were … writing us off, just because we had a bad record," said Roche, whose team started 1-5-2, much of it because of a daunting nonleague schedule.

"It was kind of like uncertain how we were going to do."

CdM lost more in one month of this season than it had in the previous two seasons combined.

At the start of the New Year, Larsen, who doesn't do a lot of yelling, reminded Roche and the Sea Kings of their goals.

"You said you wanted to win league," Larsen told his players, who began to believe that the results from the nonleague schedule meant nothing.

The real season was starting Jan. 4, on the road against Northwood. The league opener was the fresh start CdM needed.

Roche and the Sea Kings have taken off ever since. They have won six of seven league matches and they're atop the league standings.

It is quite an accomplishment considering when the Sea Kings were loaded the past two seasons they only claimed one league title.

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