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Boys' Soccer: Roche finds his mojo

CdM senior striker connects near end of match, helping Sea Kings rally for victory over California of Whittier.

February 15, 2013|By Matt Szabo
  • Corona del Mar High's Hunter Cullen (22) goes up strong for a header off a throw-in between California's Danny Garcia, left, and Valentin Cruz.
Corona del Mar High's Hunter Cullen (22) goes up… (Don Leach, Daily…)

COSTA MESA — The exchange between player and coach as they prepared to leave Jim Scott Stadium was telling.

"Nice goal," Corona del Mar High boys' soccer coach George Larsen yelled to senior Conor Roche. "About time, huh?"

Roche smiled and yelled back.

""I know," he said. "Seriously."

Roche, the Sea Kings' leading scorer as a junior with 17 goals, has had a frustrating senior year filled with injury and sickness. He still provided a moment on Friday night that the Sea Kings won't soon forget.

You could say he got his mojo back. His beautiful goal in the 76th minute was the game-winner, as Corona del Mar rallied to defeat California High of Whittier, 2-1, in a CIF Southern Section Division 3 first-round playoff match.

CdM, the second-place team from the Pacific Coast League, will play at Channel Islands of Oxnard in the second round Wednesday. Channel Islands upset No. 2-seeded Santa Ana Valley, 2-0, in another first-round match.

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Roche was the league Offensive Player of the Year as a junior, but this year he said he missed at least 10 games with a hip flexor and sickness.

His seventh goal of the year, late in the second half, still lifted the Sea Kings. He put a series of moves on his defender near the upper right corner of the box, moving slightly more into the center before unleashing a shot with his left foot.

The shot went past California goalie Raul Cota and into the lower left corner, stunning the Condors (8-7-4) but lifting the Sea Kings (12-6-6). It had the Sea Kings' leading goal scorer, senior Jack Nowak, marveling to his teammates on the bench about the number of moves that Roche put on the defender.

"He's a really proud kid, he's a really hard-working kid," Larsen said. "The fact that his senior year has not gone the way he's wanted, I know it's been on his mind and weighed heavily on him. The fact that he could come out and score a goal like he did, his senior year in a playoff game to score the game-winner, I think that makes his season OK. That makes all the other bad stuff go away, right?

"That was his moment. For him to get that signature moment in his senior year, score a goal like that in the playoffs, I think he's going to remember that one for a long time. It was a special moment. We needed a touch of individual brilliance to break the game, and that's certainly what he brought to the table."

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