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Boys' Soccer Dream Team: Francini makes year count

Senior, who played for an academy team as a junior, returned to CdM team to lead Sea Kings to outright league title.

March 28, 2012|By David Carrillo PeƱaloza
(Kevin Chang | Daily…)

Matt Francini missed high school boys' soccer at Corona del Mar.

One match is all he played in his junior season. A commitment with an academy team in Irvine barred him from playing for the Sea Kings.

So, what did Francini do? He left the academy team.

He missed CdM soccer that much.

He decided to return to the Sea Kings for his senior year for three reasons, to represent his school, to have fun, and to lead his team.

Five other seniors decided not to join him. The five opted to go the route Francini went the previous season and play for their academy teams, rather than their high school team at CdM.

"Initially, I was bummed because those are the same kids I've been playing with for a long time," said Francini, who also understood why his former teammates stayed with their academy teams. "Academy was a great experience."

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The experience was nothing compared to what Francini went through in his final high school season with the Sea Kings.

He was able to do all three things he set out to accomplish and much more, earning the Daily Pilot Newport-Mesa Dream Team Player of the Year award in boys' soccer.

Francini was glad he came back. His coach, George Larsen, was thankful as well.

Larsen needed a player as talented and smart as Francini to guide a young team, which lost a lot of experience. Francini was there for the Sea Kings, and it wasn't always easy. They started the season with just one win in the first eight matches.

When the season ended, Francini led CdM to its first outright Pacific Coast League title in Larsen's three seasons at CdM. The Sea Kings went 9-2-1 in their last dozen matches.

Larsen paid his midfielder a big compliment, comparing him to Brian Ford, a former star player, who earned All-CIF Southern Section honors in his last two seasons, before graduating in 2011. Not even Ford, a vital part of CdM's historic season in which the Sea Kings won CIF Southern Section Division IV and CIF Southern California Regional Division II titles in 2009-10, won an outright league crown with the Sea Kings.

Without Francini, Larsen said a league title wouldn't have been possible for CdM (10-7-3, 8-1-1 in league), which also reached the second round of the Division 3 playoffs. Larsen said Francini, who earned first-team all-league honors, controlled the midfield like Ford, who went on to earn a scholarship to play soccer at UC Davis.

Francini's college future is just as bright. He's going to Stanford because of academics.

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