Big games are when lineups get smaller for many teams. Sometimes the coach doesn’t really trust the younger players to perform in those key situations.
The opposite is true this year for the Laguna Beach High girls’ water polo team.
Breakers coach Ethan Damato said he played 13 different field players in the first three quarters of Wednesday’s nonleague game against Los Alamitos, including three freshmen.
The Breakers did not seem to skip a beat no matter who was in the lineup.
Senior Sophia Lucas scored five goals, and was at least as big of a factor on the defensive end in Laguna Beach’s 12-7 victory at Capistrano Valley High.
The defending CIF Southern Section Division 1 champion Breakers (5-0), top-ranked in Division 1 and 2, pulled away after the first quarter against Los Alamitos (7-2), which is tied for fifth in the divisional rankings. They were able to limit Griffins senior Bayley Weber, Lucas’ future teammate at USC.
Weber, last year’s Sunset League MVP, is a force. But Lucas guarded her good friend and held her to a single goal until the fourth quarter. Team-wise, Los Alamitos had just four goals midway through the fourth quarter until Damato emptied the rest of his bench.
“Ethan was saying, ‘If you’re going to front then front, and if you’re going to go behind then go behind,’” Lucas said. “I was really trying to focus on communicating with everyone what I needed. I thought our team did a really good job staying back, being disciplined and not repressing. We did a really good job in this game communicating and just flying around.”
Senior goalie Thea Walsh matched her season-high with 14 saves for Laguna Beach, which got two goals each from junior Claire Kelly and freshman Molly Renner.
All three freshmen made plays early for the Breakers, who won their 36th straight game since the start of last season. Renner added an assist, a field block and a steal. Freshman Nicole Struss had two assists and a steal, while Rachael Carver also had an assist.
“They all contribute,” Damato said. “They see the game well, they swim well. And our sophomores are good, our juniors are good, too. We’ve got a good crew this year.”
Seniors Isabel Riches and Alex Peros, as well as sophomore Morgan Van Alphen also scored for the opportunistic Breakers, who converted all four of their power-play chances. Evan Tingler had three assists and fellow senior Alana Evans had two assists and a field block.
Weber, Katie Dvonch and Madison Ravelo each scored two goals for Los Alamitos, which trailed just 3-2 late in the first quarter after a power-play strike from Dvonch.
But the Griffins scored once in the second quarter and were blanked in the third. The Breakers took an 11-3 lead early in the fourth.
Laguna Beach plays host to Riverside King on Friday at 4 p.m. in another nonleague game.