WESTMINSTER – After 61 minutes of tight-fisted ferocity, it was the power unleashed by one of the most accomplished finesse players on the field that ended the Tournament of Champions field hockey final on Saturday at Westminster High.
Newport Harbor High senior forward Mckenzie Porteous, whose petite physique usually prompts her to operate in space, used those instincts to put herself in perfect position to score the overtime game-winner in the 1-0 triumph over Edison.
The opportunity came about 81 seconds into the 10-minute seven-on-seven overtime period, after the Sailors (18-1-4) sent a ball from near midfield into the attacking zone, where Porteous usually wreaks havoc with her speed and ball-handling ability.
Porteous ran onto the ball and sent it ahead to senior tri-captain Katie Singer, who collected the pass in front, settled the ball onto her stick in shooting position, then began trying desperately to push the ball past Edison goalie Kaylie Thompson, who had come out to take away any comfort zone with which to attempt a shot.
After players from both teams entered the fray to try to move the ball, it popped backward toward the top of the circle, where Porteous was strategically positioned. The Sailors’ scoring leader drew back her stick and whacked a bullet into the lower right corner of the cage to end the scoreless deadlock and trigger a joyous celebration by the Sailors players and their fans.
The goal, just 81 seconds into the extra session, gave the Sailors their sixth T of C crown, their first since 2011, when they last made the final.
Newport Harbor, which lost to two-time-defending champion Edison in the semifinals the last two years, went 2-0-1 in three games against the Chargers this season.
Saturday’s win extended the Sailors’ unbeaten streak to 17 games (15-0-2) since they suffered their only loss, a 1-0 setback Sept. 20 to Sunset League champion Huntington Beach, past which Edison advanced via penalty strokes after a 2-2 deadlock in the semifinals.
Huntington Beach (18-1-3) defeated Harvard-Westlake, 1-0, in Saturday’s third-place game, thanks to a goal by sophomore Elle Saccacio with just more than six minutes remaining.
Newport Harbor, the Sunset League runner-up, took each of the five short corners awarded in regulation.
Thompson made two saves and Newport Harbor goalie Sara Sheldon had one, as the rare crosses that rolled in and out of the attacking area largely found only defenders’ sticks.
But Porteous, whose speed, skill and determination frequently allow her to create her own shots, as well as finish assists from her teammates, said finalizing on Saturday required patience.
“It was kind of hectic,” Porteous said. “I just kind of waited back [near the top of the circle] because I knew if the ball did come out, someone needed to be back there. When that happened, I just shot it and, luckily, it went in. That was the most important goal I’ve ever had; just winning the whole thing for my team and everything. Everyone running and celebrating after was just really special.”
Singer shared tournament MVP honors with Edison senior defender Riley Wester, while Porteous was joined on the all-tournament team by teammates Katie Hendrix, a senior defender, as well as senior midfielder and tri-captain Mollie Crook.
Crook and Singer scored goals in the Tars’ 2-1 semifinal triumph at Harvard-Westlake Thursday.
The Sailors’ third playoff win in five days gave Edison, the third-place team from the Sunset League, a 2-2 record in its four straight T of C final appearances.
“I told my players they have nothing to feel badly about,” Edison Coach Rebecca Antongiorgi said. “I’m so proud of this group. Honestly, they reached beyond themselves. I told them I’ve coached a lot of talented groups [in six seasons], but this is the group I’m most proud for, in terms of how hard they fought and the resilience they showed through all the injuries and distractions we had this season.
“That was a great follow-up shot [by Porteous], right to the corner and hard,” Antongiorgi said. “And, it was a great ball into the circle when we were in transition.”
Newport Harbor Coach Amanda Boyer said her team is always comfortable in the seven-on-seven format, a change from the 11-on-11 configuration in regulation.
“We always stress taking advantage in transition, and when you go seven-on-seven, the field really opens up,” Boyer said.
Newport’s defense was led by Hendrix, senior Hayden Allen, junior Rylee Warmington and sophomore Delaney Knipp.
Also noteworthy for the Sailors were midfielders Georgia Yokoyama, a senior tri-captain, sophomore Chloe Baglu, and senior forward Kendall Machado, as well as senior reserves Bridget Nolan, Katie Robinson, and junior Sam Kerrigan.
Senior defender Jordan Marcy, a co-captain along with Wester, as well as junior defender Gretchen Kirkreit and senior midfielder Corryn Cook were additional Edison all-tournament picks.
Huntington Beach seniors Sydney Beale and Lilly Mattes, as well as junior Lindsay Kenefick also made the all-tournament team.