COSTA MESA — Two rounds are scheduled, but four are expected, when it comes to the field hockey slugfest that is Newport Harbor High vs. Huntington Beach.
Round one went to the Oilers in an intense Sunset League opener, that featured a battle of unbeatens, at Harper Community School Tuesday afternoon.
The teams traded blows throughout, but Huntington Beach was left standing, and celebrating, with a 1-0 victory.
Now Newport Harbor will try to set itself up to win when there's even more on the line. The teams meet again Oct. 14, when the defending league champion plays host to the Sailors.
There's a potential meeting this weekend in the Orange County tournament at Marina High, as last year Huntington Beach beat Newport in the tourney final.
And, of course there's always the chance the teams can meet in the Tournament of Champions title game, just as they have the past two seasons.
Both years, Newport Harbor was the champ, both times in dramatic fashion. The Sailors won after a penalty-stroke shootout in 2008 and last year it was a 1-0 victory that gave Newport its second straight TOC title.
Last year, the teams each won twice in the four matches.
A three-peat has been the goal for the Sailors this year, but the Oilers showed they want it just as bad.
While Newport Harbor (5-1, 0-1 in league) squandered scoring chances, Huntington Beach (6-0, 1-0) made the most of one with 5 minutes, 15 seconds remaining.
Senior midfielder Brooke Berns fired off a shot from about 25 yards out near her team's sideline and the ball bounced off the Newport Harbor goalie and into the cage.
"It's Newport Harbor, our biggest rival, so this is awesome," Berns said. "This is probably the biggest game of the season. All of us wear our [game] skirts to school. We talked to each other before the match saying what we needed to do. We were all really intense."
Amanda Boyer, Newport Harbor's first-year coach who's in her fourth year with the program and was a former player, knows all too well of the Sailors-Oilers rivalry in field hockey.
She expected a great game would be played in the league opener.
"I would describe it as two very skilled teams that are both really wanting to win," Boyer said. "There's a lot of history there. Every game is very fun, but very intense, with both teams playing really well."
Boyer believed her team played its best game of the season. She told her players to build off the performance even though it was a loss.
"I told them to keep their heads high, 'don't you dare put your heads down,' " she said.
Huntington Beach Coach Cathy Van Doornum was happy her team hung with the Sailors and hung around to keep the game close.
She was excited with her defense. The Oilers gained a great deal of confidence, especially sophomore goalie Brittney Cristini, who had the shutout.
Senior Mary Yeager and junior Allie Pantoskey played well on offense, leading several Newport Harbor scoring chances. Yeager had much on her mind. Her older sister, Katie, a Newport Harbor alumna, was delivering a baby at Hoag Hospital. Yeager left immediately after the game.
The Newport girls tried to give a clever birthday gift with a victory. Junior Sophie Evans and senior Natalie Evans were leaders on defense.
They'll try to get the Oilers back if they meet again this weekend.
"I think this will motivate us a lot more for the next time," said senior Beth Barnard. "Since it was them we lost to this will stick in our minds."