"The curse of the ties is gone," Estancia High girls' soccer coach Jessica Perry proclaimed Thursday evening.
The Eagles had five wins and five ties in league last year, which was good enough to win the program's second Orange Coast League title in three years.
Through six league games this year, the Eagles have just one tie.
But a tie still is better than a loss.
Laguna Beach handed Estancia its first league loss in two years Thursday at Jim Scott Stadium. Breakers sophomore Katelyn Carballo scored off a corner kick in the 32nd minute, helping the visitors win, 1-0, and pull into a tie for first place in league with four games left.
The Eagles (8-5-4) and Breakers (9-5-3) are both 4-1-1 in league, good for 13 points. Godinez (3-2-1 in league) sits in third place, three points back.
For the visiting Breakers, it was a chance for revenge as the Eagles won at Laguna Beach, 2-1, on Jan. 16.
"We were up for this game," said Laguna Coach Bill Rolfing, who last guided the Breakers to the league title in 2011-12. "We knew we were battling for the league title for the moment. We had a lot of effort. I think it was pretty sketchy toward the end, but we did a pretty good job shutting them down in the first half."
Carballo's goal came after the ball bounced around in the box following the corner kick. Estancia couldn't clear it, and Carballo volleyed it into the upper portion of the net from near the top of the box. Estancia junior keeper Caitlin Leahy (five saves) leaped appeared to get her hand on the shot, but it still managed to sneak in just below the crossbar.
"That's a really hard shot to stop for the keeper," Rolfing said. "It didn't have a lot of pace on it, but it was just under the bar. She had a goal and an assist in our last game over at Costa Mesa [a 3-0 win], so Katelyn's on a little bit of a tear right now."
Estancia tried to respond. Following another Laguna corner kick, sophomore Samantha Falasco cleared the ball. She did more than that, rushing it down the field, all the way into the Laguna Beach box. She appeared to be taken down there, but no foul was called in the final minute of the first half.
Falasco, who Perry called one of the league's best players, also had several long free kicks into the box in the second half. But no Eagles teammates could find the receiving end.
"We played as hard as we could," said Falasco, one of four team captains along with senior midfielders Haley Flores and Jackie Hubbard and junior midfielder Alba Barrios. "Obviously there were times where we could have finished. It just didn't go our way this time ... I think we can come back and win league. We just have to want it, and I think that we all have that drive."
Falasco had another good chance midway through the half, but her shot was stopped by Laguna keeper Kara Dunn-Dombrink (four saves).
Rolfing said that Dunn-Dombrink, who has recorded three straight shutouts, is the Breakers' JV goalie. She's stepped up in the absence of junior goalie Kylie George, who aggravated a back injury last week.
The Eagles kept battling. Barrios' header off a corner kick went just wide right in the closing minutes.
Estancia had one last chance after Laguna freshman Lilli Cook received a yellow card in second-half stoppage time. Falasco's last free kick, from 55 yards out, went into the box. Freshman Katarina Freiberger and sophomore Emily Rodriguez both took shots, but both were blocked and the Breakers were able to clear.
With each league game crucial, Estancia will have to bounce back. The Eagles play host to rival Costa Mesa on Tuesday at 5 p.m.
"It's just a bump in the road," said Perry, who has a bump in her stomach as she's pregnant with her first child. "It's by no means over. I think this will motivate them even more. They definitely are disappointed in the result, but they also will use it as fuel. As much as we love beating Laguna, it just didn't go our way today.
"I know the rest of the league is going to be very happy to see this result in the paper, but that's OK. We've just got to move on."