The past 12 months have been full of highlights and superlatives for Laguna Beach High athletes.
Since January, Laguna teams have captured several league champions, a CIF Southern California Regional title, a CIF Southern Section title and along the way, several individuals went into the school record books.
Below is a look at some of the key highlights reported to the Coastline Pilot during the past year.
Laguna's girls' water polo team made its way again to the William Woollett Jr. Aquatics Center in Irvine for the CIF Southern Section final four. The Breakers, who had won their fifth straight league championship, took top-ranked Dos Pueblos to the wire in a semifinal game but lost on a "golden goal," 14-13. The Breakers, playing their first season in Division 1, ended their year 22-8. Seniors Jessie Holechek and Jessica Shusko were co-MVPs of the Orange Coast League.
The season came to an end in February for both the Laguna girls' and boys' soccer teams, as neither qualified for the playoffs.
The season also ended in mid-February for the Laguna girls' basketball team in a CIF playoff loss to St. Anthony (Long Beach), which won the Division 4A championship.
The boys' basketball team bowed out of the CIF 4A playoffs a day after the girls' team was eliminated. The Breakers went 17-10 and won the league championship for a fifth straight year. Junior Tyler Masukawa was co-MVP of the Orange Coast League.
The Laguna girls' track and field team finished first and the Breakers' boys' team was third at the Orange Coast League Track & Field Championships on May 5. The same day, the Laguna boys' and girls' swimming teams won their divisions at the Orange Coast League Swimming Championships.
The Laguna girls' team finished second and the boys' team was fifth at the CIF Division 3 Swimming and Diving Championships at Belmont Plaza Olympic Pool in Long Beach. Freshman Lila Vera was part of two CIF championship finishes, winning an individual title in the girls' 100 butterfly with a school-record time of 56.20 seconds. She also swam the fourth leg of the girls' 400 free relay team that was powered by Yoshi Andersen, Melena Masson and Jessica Shusko.
Two members of the Breakers boys' golf team earned top-five finishes at the 2011 Golden West League boys' golf tournament at El Dorado Park in Long Beach. Andrew Palmer finished third and teammate Tim Peterson was fifth. Palmer and Peterson made first-team all-league and advanced to play in the first round of the CIF Individuals tournament at Skylinks Golf Course in Long Beach.
The 2011 season was historic for both the Laguna softball and baseball programs. In softball, Laguna returned to varsity action for the first time since the 2006-07 school year. The Breakers finished fourth in the Orange Coast League and earned an at-large bid to the Division 5 playoffs. It was just the second postseason game for the program, the last coming 21 years ago.
On the baseball diamond, Laguna turned in a season the program hadn't experienced in its previous 72 years. The 2011 Breakers finished 27-3, won its first league title in 48 years and set nearly every offensive record for the program. In the process, seniors Chris Paul and Keaton Jones were named the league's Player of the Year and Pitcher of the Year, respectively, and both made All-CIF.
"This truly was what someone would call a 'dream season,' " said Coach Jeff Sears, who left Laguna after the season to accept the head coaching job at Servite. "It was the real deal where everything aligned. And the kids did it. They went out and played hard. And it was a lot of fun."
Just days before the Laguna boys' tennis team was to begin its season, the Breakers welcomed a new coach in Peter Davidson. In his first year, Davidson guided the Breakers to another league title and to the championship match of the CIF Division 4 playoffs, where they lost to defending champion Viewpoint. In an all-Laguna Orange Coast League finale, Jake Michaels defeated Teague Hamilton to win the singles title and Hutton McKenna and Morgan Lebby turned back Taylor Davidson and Nick Le to win the doubles crown.
The Laguna boys' volleyball team might have lost out on repeating as CIF champion, but the Breakers had no trouble in winning another CIF Southern California Regional title. A week after falling in the Division 2 final at Cypress College to Corona del Mar, the Breakers knocked off Francis Parker of San Diego in late-May to win their third straight Division III regional championship.
"It's definitely a good way to go out," said senior opposite Robbie McKnight, who went on to make the All-CIF team along with teammate Troy Donenfeld. "It's a big accomplishment. We worked hard for it."
Records continued to fall once the 2011-12 school year rolled around.
In football, the Breakers, who finished the regular season ranked eighth in the CIF Southern Section Southern Division poll, became just the third Laguna team to win 10 games in a season. The last Laguna team to accomplish the feat was the 1987 (10-2) squad. They also became the first Laguna team since 1964 to reach the CIF semifinals.
The Breakers, who finished third in the Orange Coast League, lost in the Southern Division semifinals in November to second-ranked Corona del Mar, which went on to win the division title. In the postseason, the Breakers walloped Anaheim, 49-13, and outlasted third-ranked Segerstrom 51-40, to become the third Laguna team in school history to win two CIF games. The 1946 and 1962 teams also won two postseason games.
Senior Norton Penney, junior Drake Martinez, junior Larry Stewart and junior Spencer Anderson were named first-team all-league.
"The kids had a real good year," Laguna Coach Mike Churchill said. "I think the early success we had helped the kids build on that."
In girls' golf, the Breakers finished second to Estancia in the Orange Coast League and had three players named to the 2011 all-league team. Senior captain Taylor Weiss was a first-team player who finished runner-up to league MVP Cassie Stevenson of Estancia for the league's individual title. Niko Morok of Laguna was fifth at the league tournament and also made first team. Vivian Mendoza was eighth at league finals and made the second team.
In girls' volleyball, the third-ranked Breakers won another Orange Coast League championship with yet another undefeated league run and reached the semifinals of the CIF-SS 1-A playoffs. There, they were eliminated by second-ranked Corona del Mar. Senior setter Allison Palmer, who will play next year at Arizona State, and freshman outside hitter Alyse Wallace-Ford were named All-CIF Southern Section for Division 1-A.
Palmer also was named the 2011 Orange Coast League Most Valuable Player. Wallace-Ford and seniors Caroline Holte and Marina Paul were named first-team all-league.
Lance Stewart, who coaches both girls' and boys' basketball at Laguna, stepped down as boys' head coach in early December. He was replaced by Scott Panaro.
In girls' tennis, the Breakers again won the league title, dominated the league tournament and reached the CIF playoffs under first-year Coach Don Davis. Senior Lauren Michaels won the league's singles title and was named league MVP.
In doubles, the teams of freshman Kira Hamilton and sophomore Brooke Michaels won the league tournament title.
In cross-country, the Laguna girls' team realized a season-long dream by reaching the CIF State Cross-Country Championships in late-November at Woodwark Park in Fresno. The Breakers entered the meet ranked sixth in Division 4 and they finished sixth at State. Individually, senior Natasha Strickland was Laguna's top finisher in 16th place.
Strickland was named Female Runner of the Year for the 2011 Orange Coast League girls' cross-country season.
The Laguna boys' team finished in 14th place at the CIF-SS Division 4 meet at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut in November. The Breakers were represented on the all-league team by senior Jeff White.
The 2011 sports year ended with a bang for Laguna, which repeated as CIF-SS Division 3 champion in boys' water polo. Coach Ethan Damato's squad went wire-to-wire as the No. 1-ranked team for the season and capped its memorable campaign in November by defeating second-ranked Damien, 14-8, for the second straight year in the division final.
"This is awesome," Damato said after the victory. "I think the pressure has been on this team all year and our guys have responded so well to every challenge. This (title) is something we've been wanting all year. What really impressed me was that this entire team stepped up big when we lost two key starters. That says a lot about our guys."
Senior Nolan McConnell was named CIF-SS Division 3 Player of the Year and Damato the division's Coach of the Year. Seniors Erik Henrikson (goalie) and Samer Alkateb, and junior Riley Thomas, were named first-team All-CIF. Senior Tommy Renner and junior Camron Hauer were named second-team All-CIF and senior Nicky Brunner was third-team All-CIF.
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