Do not underestimate the intensity of a high school senior at the end of the athletic season, trying to extend his or her prep career as long as possible.
For Corona del Mar High senior Karsten Sigband, the end of the girls' soccer season means just a bit more.
Growing up playing soccer, the center midfielder always was one of the top players. She never envisioned the past few years going as they have. She thought she'd be playing collegiate soccer for sure.
CdM has at least five college commits or signees, but Sigband is not one of them. Injuries took their toll on her recruiting process.
She missed her sophomore season at CdM with a torn anterior cruciate ligament. She came back strong last year, earning Newport-Mesa Dream Team honors, but suffered another injury in March at the start of the club season. This time, it was a high ankle sprain, which caused Sigband to miss a big showcase in Las Vegas.
"All my schools were coming out, flying out to watch me," she said. "A bunch of [Ivy League schools] were coming out, and obviously I couldn't play so they couldn't see me. It's really hard for them to come to the California events."
Academics are also important to Sigband, who said she has a 4.4 grade-point average at CdM and applied to 15 colleges. She plans to study business in college, but she has accepted the fact that she likely won't be playing soccer at the NCAA level.
"I definitely think [this year] is way more significant," Sigband said. "These are some of my last games of soccer. I have to enjoy every game I play. I have to make sure I'm not taking it for granted."
Sigband also is trying to help CdM, which has never won a section title in the sport, make history. She has stepped up her play at the end of the season for the Sea Kings (16-3-4), who play host to Esperanza on Tuesday in the second round of the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs.
The Daily Pilot Athlete of the Week doubled her season scoring total in just two games. She had a hat trick in a 6-2 Pacific Coast League win at Woodbridge on Feb. 5. Two days later, she scored on a free kick in a 3-0 victory over Beckman.
The wins were crucial for the Sea Kings. They then clinched their third straight outright league title with their third win of the week, a 3-0 decision over University at Irvine High.
Sigband, who leads CdM with eight goals scored, also is second on the team with five assists. She is lethal on set pieces. All of her three goals against Woodbridge came off corner kicks. Two of them were her own corner kicks that the left-footer took from the right side. She bent both in at the far post. She also scored on a header, off a corner kick from sophomore Shelby Brown.
"On most of my corner kicks, the goal is to score," Sigband said. "I try to hit it far post and hope it bends in. I mean, I've been taking corners for a long time. I know corners really well. Usually, the keeper is really confused. They're not expecting a shot on a corner, they're expecting someone to come head it in. They kind of just stand there and it ends up going right by them, which works out for me. And we have great headers. A lot of girls are really strong in the air."
It was a nice week for Sigband, who celebrated her 18th birthday on Sunday. She has been an important piece for the Sea Kings, particularly as they suffered through injuries during the league season.
Sigband is one of four team captains, along with midfielder Annie Alvarado, forward Maddie O'Connor and defender Alana Hunter. All are seniors. Sigband and the UCLA-bound Alvarado have a special teamwork in the midfield, as the best friends have been playing soccer together for a long time. Last November, they helped their Southern California Blues under-18 club team win the prestigious San Diego Surf Cup.
"The two of them obviously have very good composure in the midfield," CdM Coach Bryan Middleton said. "They're kind of like the one-two punch coming out of the midfield for us. Karsten has good composure on the ball, good vision and likes to set up other players on the team with her passing ability. She's definitely stepped up this year and played a leadership role during the play of the game, taking some of that weight on her shoulders."
Sigband takes a lot of pride in the CdM program. She and her sisters, Paige and Birkley, have been part of the Sea Kings' growth to an elite program during Middleton's tenure. Karsten credits her parents, Mitch and Erika, for their support over the years.
Karsten was a freshman during the senior year of Paige, who is now a student at Bucknell University. And in the past two years Karsten has seen Birkley, now a sophomore, mature into a key piece for CdM as well.
Birkley Sigband, who plays club soccer for Legends FC, is tied for third on CdM with six goals scored this year.
"I love watching her play and I love playing with her," Karsten Sigband said. "She's really easy to play with, because she's always working way harder than anyone else on the field. Honestly, when I see her play, I get inspired by her, even though she's younger than me. She just plays with so much heart. And I think that as she gets older, she'll definitely be one of the leaders on the team."
But now, it is Karsten's time in that role. The Sea Kings have accomplished goals this season, like winning the Battle of the Bay and winning league. Reaching another goal could be just three more matches away.
"That's obviously the ultimate goal," Sigband said. "Girls' soccer has never won a CIF title. I think it would be really indicative of how much work I've put into soccer, winning that ring my senior year for my school. There's something so rewarding about winning for your school. You're representing so much more than just your team ... you're winning for your friends, your teachers, the administration, your coaches, and also the girls on your team. It would mean a lot."
Few would enjoy it more than Karsten Sigband. Few get the chance to go out on top.
"Because I'm not playing in college, it's making me enjoy this season even more," she said. "I'm getting to the end. I'm just trying to enjoy every minute of it."
Born: Feb. 10, 1995
Hometown: Balboa Island
Coach: Bryan Middleton
Favorite food: Bear Flag Fish Co.
Favorite movie: "The Shawshank Redemption"
Favorite athletic moment: Helping the Southern California Blues under-18 club team win the prestigious San Diego Surf Cup tournament last November.