Second place is good enough

Playing up an age group and in its final event before leaving for the Junior Olympics, the Laguna Beach Age Group Water Polo girls' 14-and-Under team finished runner-up in the 16-U bracket of the John Hale Tournament in Murietta.

Laguna competed against 16-U teams from Empire, Elite, Stanford, Los Alamitos and Chino Hills.

The team, coached by Chad Beeler and Ethan Damato, compete the first week on August at the Junior Olympics.

Laguna 14, Empire 1

Laguna cruised in its tournament opener last Friday, getting three goals each from Yoshi Andersen, Kelsey Thorton and Candyce Schroeder, and single goals from Riley Duncan, Kaitlyn Waidley, Lida De Groote, Melena Masson and Jessie Holechek.

Laguna 7, Los Alamitos 5

Los Alamitos, the top seed in the tournament, took a two-goal lead early but Laguna came on strong and went on to win the match.

Edy Manetta made an early save and Yoshi Andersen scored the first goal of the match to give Laguna a 1-0 lead. But Los Alamitos went on to score on a pair of lob shots and a power shot to conclude the first quarter to take a 3-1 lead.

By tightening up its defense in the second quarter, Laguna climbed back into the game. Melena Masson first scored on a lob off a pass from Candyce Schroeder who later scored on a lob of her own after taking a flip pass from Jessie Holechek to tie the score at 3-3.

Los Alamitos broke the tie by scoring with 18 seconds left in the quarter to take a 4-3 lead into the half.

In the third quarter, Manetta made a key save, Jessica Shusko then drew an impressive entry pass to Schroeder in hole set which resulted in a kick out. Masson scored on a tap-in with the player advantage to tie the score again but Los Alamitos came right back to score and grab a 5-4 lead heading into the fourth quarter. Laguna, unaccustomed to facing a deficit in the fourth quarter, stepped up its defense another notch as Manetta continued her strong play in net and Masson and Shusko shut down Los Alamitos' top scorer in hole set. Schroeder was relentless on a rebound and drew a five-meter call. Holechek was automatic on the free shot, and the game was tied for the third time 5-5.

With 52 seconds left in the game, Shusko placed a skip shot past the Los Alamitos goalie to give Laguna its first lead, 6-5. Schroeder added an insurance goal off feed by Kelsey Thorton,

Laguna 12, Elite 3

In their second game played Saturday, Laguna raced past Elite. Jessie Holechek took scoring honors with five goals. Candyce Schroeder scored three times, Riley Duncan twice and Jessica Shusko and Yoshi Andersen each scored twice.

Bridget Alvarez had three assists.

Laguna 5, Stanford 4

Ina 7 a.m. game played Sunday, Laguna came up with some big defensive play to defeat No. 4-seed Stanford.

Laguna began the scoring when Jessica Shusko drew a kick out following a save by Edy Manetta and Kelsey Thorton did the scoring honors off a feed from Jessie Holechek. In the second quarter, Stanford scored consecutive goals to go up 2-1 but Candyce Schroeder drew a kick out and Melena Masson scored off a Duncan pass to tie the score at 2-2.

Stanford scored again before the half was over to take a 3-2 lead.

Early in the second half, Stanford scored to increase its advantage to 4-2. But back came Laguna as Holechek scored on a quick shot after being fouled just outside the five-meter line, Edy Manetta made two huge saves to keep the game and after Shusko drew another kick out, Duncan found Holechek on the wing and she delivered the score-tying shot that made it 4-4.

Stanford would not lead again.

In the fourth quarter, Shusko again drew a kick out that later led to a score by Holechek off an assist from Yoshi Andersen. Laguna then turned to its defense to secure the win. Manetta came out of the cage to make a steal and preserve the lead and in the final 40 seconds and Stanford in possession, the defense of Shusko and Masson shut down hole set and Stanford couldn't get off a shot. Laguna then was able to run out the clock to advance to the final.

Chino Hills 5, Laguna 3

Laguna hung tough with the host team and one of the top 16-U teams in the area, before falling in the final.

Edy Manetta came up with a terrific save on a five-meter shot to keep the game scoreless early before the teams traded goals. First, Chino Hills scored but Laguna posted the equalizer when Yoshi Andersen fed Candyce Schroeder for the tying goal.

Laguna would take a 3-2 lead at the half. The first goal came when Melena Masson off a flip pass from Jessie Holechek. After Chino Hills scored to tie the score, Holechek scored on a free shot after Andersen drew a five-meter.

Chino Hills took the lead for good by scoring three goals in the third quarter to go up, 5-3. Laguna missed several scoring opportunities in the second half and could get no closer.

"We were challenged and faced adversity but we responded," Damato said. "We found ways to score when our offense broke down, and we continued to play tough defense.

"We learned to value every possession in a tight match. We know that we can improve our six on fives. All in all, the weekend was a huge success."

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