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Let the games begin

Mike Sciacca

The Laguna Beach High boys’ water polo team launches its 2002

season today against the same team it ended the 2001 campaign

against: Esperanza.

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Match time is set for 4 p.m. at Laguna Beach.

The teams met in last year’s CIF Southern Section Division II

semifinal round at Newport Harbor where Esperanza emerged with a

thrilling, 12-11 overtime victory.

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Being in the spotlight is nothing new for a Laguna Beach’s boys’

water polo program that has reached the playoff semifinal round in

six of the past seven seasons. The Artists -- now Breakers -- have a

string of 10 consecutive postseason appearances in head coach Rick

Scott’s 11 years at the helm, including one trip to the division

championship game.

This fall, however, Laguna Beach joins Pacific Coast League rival

Corona del Mar in moving up to Division I.

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Laguna Beach is perhaps the smallest school in terms of enrollment

among Division I schools; however, with a senior-laden team roster

comprised of 18 varsity players, Scott says that this just may be his

best team yet.

“We have a very well-rounded team and a great group of kids,” he

said. “This is a close group and it plays well together. It will be a

bit different moving up a division against schools that are larger

than ours, but our program is very sound.”

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Leading the Breakers into the 2002 season are a trio of returning

all-league performers: senior goalie Hugh Sandys, senior two-meter

man Nich McConnell, and senior driver Bryan Early.

Games against the likes of Esperanza, ranked No. 5 in the CIF-SS

Division II preseason poll, will only toughen Laguna Beach, preseason

No. 9 in Division I, as the Breakers progress in their season toward

Pacific Coast League play, Scott said.

“Our preseason schedule, basically, is getting us prepared for

league,” he said. “Corona del Mar is not only our big rival, but

expected to win league and even CIF. It should be a fun season.”

LAGUNA BEACH’S DECORATED GIRLS’ TENNIS TAKES COURT TUESDAY

No doubt the Laguna Beach girls’ tennis team will be a marked

squad in 2002. That’s not one X you will see on the backside of

Breakers uniforms, but four, in total.

That’s because the program has dominated the CIF Southern Section

Division 5 competition the past four years, winning the division

crown in each of those years.

The Breakers open their season on Tuesday with a 3 p.m. home match

against Woodbridge.

Junior Jackie Reed was a driving force in last season’s title

match and new Breakers head coach Brian Ricker looks for Reed to

continue to dominate in both doubles and singles play, in addition to

providing leadership on what he calls a very “young, talented team.”

Leadership also will come from senior Camerin Barron-Sandman, the

Breakers’ top singles player.

Barron-Sandman is a four-year starting singles player and had a

great summer preparing for the fall season, Ricker said.

The leadership provided by Barron-Sandman and Reed will be needed,

as the Breakers welcome three, highly-ranked freshman to the varsity

team.

Lorren Butterwick, Claire Rietsch and Katie Ochwat each tasted

tremendous success over the summer on the United States Tennis

Association circuit and should, Ricker said, have a big impact on the

squad this year.

“The team should be equal or stronger than last year’s team, due

to the depth this team has,” he said.

Eight girls, he said, are vying for the final four varsity spots.

Among them are returning varsity players Jessica Murray, Alex Murrel,

Britton Simons, Allie Phelps and Corey Miller.

Three junior varsity players seeking a spot on the varsity roster

include Quinn Johnson, Heather Sjule and Kim Ochwat.

Like the school’s boys’ water polo program, the girls’ tennis team

has been moved up to Division I this fall, a big jump of four

divisions.

Division I is stacked with some of the Southern Section’s top

teams.

“The road through the playoffs will be much tougher this year,”

Ricker added. “However, if the girls continue to work hard and focus,

then they should have some success through the year.”

* MIKE SCIACCA covers sports for the Laguna Beach Coastline

Pilot. He can be reached at 494-4321 or by e-mail at

michael.sciacca@latimes.com.


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