With the prestigious Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions now in the books, the Laguna Beach High girls’ water polo team this week has turned its attention to playing yet another big game.
At 3:15 p.m. today, Laguna will host Villa Park in a Division II match-up that will pit the top-ranked Breakers against the seventh-ranked Spartans.
Laguna comes into the nonleague match with a 15-2 record. The Breakers were saddled with their first two losses of the season last week up in Santa Barbara.
Prior to competing at the Tournament of Champions, Laguna took on Dos Pueblos in a nonleague game Jan. 15. The then-third ranked Chargers (Division I) edged the Breakers, 7-6.
“We didn’t shoot very well but still found our selves tied 6-6 with two minutes to play," Laguna Coach Ethan Damato said. “We missed over 20 shots in that game, with at least half being quality looks.
“With all that considered, we were only a goal away from the hottest team in high school water polo right now. We know we can beat them."
At the two-day Tournament of Champions, hosted by Dos Pueblos and Santa Barbara, Laguna went 3-1 overall to earn a fifth-place finish in the 16-team event. On the opening day of tournament play, the Breakers, the No. 1 seed in Pool 2, split their first two games. They defeated host Santa Barbara (No. 9, Division II), then lost, 6-5, to Los Alamitos (No. 5, Division I) in the quarterfinals.
On Saturday, Laguna bounced back to handle Coronado, 13-6, then Montebello (No. 2, Division II), 12-5, to take fifth place.
The win over Montebello marked the second time in 11 days that Laguna had routed the Oilers. The Breakers began 2009 with a 17-6 romp Jan. 6 “I thought that the girls really played hard but failed to execute at times over the weekend, particularly during the Dos Pueblos and Los Al games," Damato said.
“Our shooting was off on Thursday and Friday. We had the wrong game plan going into the Los Al game, which put us down 4-2 at half. In the second half, we pressed and the girls really battled to get themselves back into the game and eventually we tied the score, 4-4. Unfortunately, we just missed a couple more shots than they did.
“On Saturday, we were back to our normal selves and shot very well, which opened our two-meter play. On Thursday and Friday, we saw a heavy drop on both Annika (Dries) and Lexie (Ross) at two-meters."
Dos Pueblos went on to win the tournament, defeating Los Alamitos, 6-4, in the championship game.
By winning the tournament, Dos Pueblos, the defending Division II champion, bypassed No. 3 Corona del Mar and No. 2 Newport Harbor to take over the No. 1 spot in the Division I poll.
Despite losing twice last week, Laguna continues its solid hold on the No. 1 position in Division II.
The Breakers’ Natasha Schulman, who next year will play at UCLA, was named to the 10-player all-tournament team.
Following today’s home game against Villa Park, Laguna returns to Orange Coast League play Wednesday (6 p.m.) against Godinez at the Santa Ana Valley High pool.
MIKE SCIACCA covers sports. He can be reached at (714) 966-4611 or by e-mail at email@example.com.