The Laguna Beach Age Group Water Polo girls' 14-and-Under team picked up some added momentum for the upcoming national Speedo Cup tournament by winning the Southern Pacific Age Group zone championship last weekend.
Laguna won four consecutive matches to claim the title, culminated with a 3-2 victory over rival Los Alamitos in the final at the Woollett Aquatics Center in Irvine.
Laguna 3, Los Alamitos 2
Both teams emerged unbeaten from round-robin play to contend for the title on Sunday.
Los Alamitos took a 1-0 lead on a put-back goal midway through the opening quarter. Before the end of the quarter, Laguna drew even when Candyce Schroeder drew a kick out in hole set and Jessie Holechek scored on a player-advantage situation for Laguna. The goal was set up by an assist from Schroeder.
Edy Manetta made two crucial saves in the first quarter and neither team was able to score in the second quarter, as the score stood 1-1 at the half.
Defense continued to dominate the match in the third quarter and Manetta made another key save to preserve the tie. With under 30 seconds remaining in the quarter, Laguna took its first lead when Holechek came up with a steal, lobbed the ball forward and Schroeder beat the Los Al keeper.
Los Alamitos pulled into another tie by scoring on a flip shot with just two minutes to play in the fourth quarter. But with 1:41 remaining, Jessica Shusko had a perfect set-up for Schroeder in hole set, which led to the go-ahead goal and a 3-2 lead.
In the final minute, Laguna's defense — paced by Melena Masson, Yoshi Andersen, Kelsey Thorton and Riley Duncan — limited the scoring lanes for Los Alamitos. One shot attempt on the Laguna goal sailed over the goal. Holechek and Shusko took away the inside lanes from Los Alamitos, whose final shot on goal was blocked by Manetta. Masson took possession of the rebound and Laguna was able to run out the final 11 seconds on the clock.
Laguna 8, Corona del Mar 3
Defense again paved the way for Laguna in their first match played Sunday.
A steal by Yoshi Andersen early in the first period led to a rebound goal by Jessia Shusko. An ensuing steal by Shusko led to a pass to Edy Manetta, who fed Candyce Schroeder for another goal and a 2-0 lead. Jessie Holechek then stole an entry pass and ensuing passes by Shusko and Kelsey Thorton got the ball to Schroeder, who fired a re-direction shot into the back of the net.
In period two, Andersen came up with another steal and sprint and finished the play with a goal of her own. Manetta then made her first save of the game and after a foul, Shusko flipped a short pass to Holechek, who buried a shot into the back of the net for a 5-0 lead. Manetta had a second save in the half to help preserve Laguna's five-goal cushion at the break.
A goal by Holechek and two by Shusko, all in the third quarter, capped Laguna's scoring.
Laguna 10, Socal 0
Saturday saw Laguna open up tournament play with a lopsided victory.
Candyce Schroeder posted three goals, Kelsey Thorton and Yoshi Andersen had two each and Jessie Holecheck, Jessica Shusko and Hannah Lawson each scored once.
Laguna 7, Newport Beach 2
In its second match played Saturday, Laguna pulled away from a 3-2 halftime lead and shut out Newport Beach in the second half of play.
Riley Duncan scored twice and Kelsey Thorton once in the opening half for Laguna. Thorton added another in the third quarter and in the final frame, Jessie Holechek scored twice and Kaitlyn Waidley once to seal the victory.
In other water polo news:
Laguna and the North San Diego Stars have been invited by USA Water Polo to play each other in an exhibition game at 3:45 p.m. at the Women's Speedo Top 40 at the National Training Center in Los Alamitos. The Speedo Top 40 festival features the top 40 U.S. players from three national teams competing on mixed squads against each other.
Current Laguna Beach High player Annika Dries and former Breakers standout Addison Doud are part of the top 40 players in the tournament.
The exhibition game against the Stars will be the final match Laguna will play before departing for Columbia, Mo., and the Speedo Cup national tournament Nov. 11-13.