The Laguna Beach High girls' water polo team went on the road for the first time Wednesday in an early-season showdown with Santiago of Corona. In a game that went to the wire, the Breakers ended up on the short end of a 9-8 score in nonleague action.
The Breakers, ranked sixth in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 poll, led, 3-1, after the first quarter. The Sharks, the defending Division II champion and currently ranked No. 7 in the division, rallied to take a 6-4 halftime lead.
It was a 7-6 game in favor of Santiago heading into the fourth quarter. Laguna had several chances to catch the Sharks, but couldn't post the equalizing goal.
It was the second game of the season for the Breakers (1-1), who opened their campaign Nov. 28 with an 11-5 win over Dana Hills.
"We had our chances but couldn't get it done," Laguna Coach Ethan Damato said. "We made too many mistakes down the stretch but, win or lose, it was a learning lesson for us. Unfortunately, we were on the losing side. As the season goes on, it's all about finding ways to win in close games.
"At this point in the season, it's about us getting better. We're still playing without Makenzie Fischer. Overall, though, I thought it was a good game for us. I thought we got better from our first game to this game."
Brighid Burnes led Laguna with three goals. Mackenzie Baldridge and Lexi Del Toro each scored twice and keeper Jenna Knott had nine saves.
Fischer, a starter for Laguna, is with the USA Water Polo Women's Youth National Team (18-and-under) competing in Perth, Australia, at the FINA World Youth Water Polo Championships.
The Breakers return to action Tuesday. They'll take on Edison in a 5 p.m. nonleague game at Ocean View High. The Chargers are ranked ninth in Division 1.
The Breakers got their new season off to a successful start Nov. 30 when they defeated visiting Dana Hills, 5-1, at Guyer Field.
Reece Barton scored twice and Harrison Gregory, Willy Wheeler and Chris Tellez also scored for the Breakers.
"Obviously, we are delighted with the result against Dana," Laguna Coach Dan Richards said. "I don't think anyone would have expected a score line like that when looking at the size of the two schools and previous meeting between each other in recent years.
"All the goals were very well taken, but the header from Chris Tellez and Willy's bicycle kick, were very special. They both showed excellent technique and creativity being able to finish in that manner"
Laguna pulled away from the Dolphins in the second half after holding a 2-1 edge at halftime.
"The boys showed great energy and were eager to get our season underway," Richards said. "We have been working hard in training to get all the players on the same page and to make sure they know their roles and responsibilities come game day.
"Despite the result, there are still a lot of things we need to improve upon and the lads know that we can play much better. It's important they don't get carried away with just one win and recognize there is a long road ahead of us if we want to reach our goals."
Laguna plays its second game Friday , a 6:30 p.m. nonleague road game at Tesoro.
"The game against Tesoro will be tough, it's another big Division 1 school and they will want to put on a good performance at home," Richards said. "Last year's match between us was very close and we know we will have to raise our game to be able to compete."
The Breakers went 1-1-1 on the opening weekend at the Ocean View Holiday Classic in Huntington Beach.
Laguna started tournament play Nov. 30 and scored a 1-0 shutout win over Whittier. Senior Sarah Hewlett scored unassisted on a free kick from 30 yards that went into the far-upper corner of the Whittier goal as the Breakers defeated the Cardinals for their first win of the season.
The Breakers played two tournament games on Saturday. First, they fought Orange Coast League rival Calvary Chapel of Santa Ana to a scoreless tie. They then played Cypress and the Centurions, one of the top teams in the bracket, scored a 4-1 victory. Freshman Katelyn Carballo scored what Coach Bill Rolfing called a "tremendous" goal off a crossing assist from fellow freshman Maddy Kristensen. Junior defender Tessa Hopper and sophomore midfielder Janie Crawford also turned in solid performances for the Breakers.
Rolfing said his young team has played "spirited" in the tournament, noting that the Breakers haven't fielded their starting 11 in their first four matches of the season. Several Breakers recently joined the team after the conclusion of the girls' cross country and volleyball seasons which ended in late November.
"It's been a big challenge and now with those girls joining, there will be a pressure to quickly establish structured play," Rolfing said. "It is exciting times however, with lots of 'club' based talent on the squad."
Laguna (1-2-1) returns to Ocean View Holiday Classic action at 9:10 a.m. Saturday and will take on Valencia of Placentia at Ocean View High. The tournament concludes Monday (Dec. 10).
CIF WEEKLY RANKINGS
Girls' water polo: Laguna Beach (No. 6, Division 1).