Lindsey Luke was seemingly always smiling on the field this season for the Corona del Mar High girls' soccer team.
If you anchored the kind of defense the Sea Kings had this season, you'd smile too.
Luke made big save after big save in goal. She was a key reason CdM had its most successful season in years, winning its first outright Pacific Coast League title in 11 years and advancing to the CIF Southern Section playoff quarterfinals in its first season up in Division I.
The first-team All-Pacific Coast League goalie was also a first-team All-CIF Southern Section Division I selection, just one of two goalies to earn that distinction.
Luke is also the Daily Pilot Dream Team Player of the Year. It's something more to smile about for the Wake Forest-bound senior, who didn't play high school soccer her junior year.
"A couple of the girls asked me if I was going to come back," Luke said. "I talked to [Coach Bryan] Middleton and he was like, 'This is going to be a fun year.' I was like, 'All right.'
"I kind of go with the flow. Playing for the team was always fun. It was cool to have a relaxed state of mind through the whole thing. We had fun, but we also worked hard."
Luke notched 12 shutouts for the Sea Kings (15-4-5). In 1,702 minutes of play, she gave up just 10 goals.
Middleton appreciated the fact that Luke came back to the team her senior year. She has long been an accomplished club goalie, winning five national State Cup titles with the Slammers and CdM boys' coach George Larsen. Luke also was a member of the under-18 women's national team player pool last year.
In high school this season, though, she was needed. This was especially true since Middleton's side lost another top goalie, junior Stanford commit Sarah Cox, to an ACL injury.
"It just showed maturity that she chose to come back and play not only for herself, but for the team and the program," he said. "Any tournament we went to, they'd ask, 'Where's your goalkeeper going next year?' She's phenomenal. She played with that intensity all year long … She's already playing at the level she needs to play at next year in college."
Luke's friend and Slammers club teammate Kaylee O'Connor missed time and was never quite 100% this year, with a stress fracture in her foot and injured knee. But Luke and the Sea Kings defense, including stopper Hannah Rome, sweeper Sydney Raguse, Alana Hunter and Amanda Stephenson, never skipped a beat. Only once all season did the Sea Kings give up more than one goal, coming when Irvine converted a penalty kick just before the end of the game.
"Lindsey's technical ability to get the ball is phenomenal," Middleton said. "She has a fast reaction time and she knows how to position herself. Besides being a phenomenal goalkeeper, it was her communication this year with our defense and, as a whole, our team … She showed great leadership … Everyone on the team was on the same page because she was directing the flow of traffic."
Luke had fun throughout. Early in the season she was an all-tournament selection at the Butch Lee Memorial tournament in San Diego. She played some of her best soccer in the postseason as well, making 15 saves in a CIF second-round shootout win over Los Alamitos.
In the Sea Kings' final game of the season, a 1-0 CIF quarterfinal loss to San Clemente on Feb. 24, Luke had eight saves. She also had fun. She was playing against two of her Slammers club teammates and best friends, the Tritons' Tessa Andujar (who played at CdM her first two years) and Frannie Coxe.
Even in the middle of a very intense game, Luke didn't let nerves get the best of her. When the ball would be played back to her, she'd grin and perform ball tricks, tempting her friends before snatching the ball up at the last minute.
"It was funny," Luke said. "Tessa knew I was just going to pick it up. It was fun teasing her."
Luke wasn't a tease for the Sea Kings. She was the real deal. And nobody needs to ask her if she made the right choice to come back.
"I'm really happy that I did play," she said. "It was so much fun. This team was definitely the closest team out of the three years that I've played, and it was a really great season."
Here's a look at the other 12 Newport-Mesa players who make this year's Dream Team: