Editor’s Note: The following is the first of two parts reviewing Laguna Beach athletics, starting with girls’ sports. Boys’ sports will follow next week.
The numbers are staggering for the Laguna Beach High athletic program.
Athletic director Mike Churchill said out of 1,070 kids at the school, 651 of them "” more than 60% "” play at least one CIF sport.
In the recently completed athletic year, the results on the field were just as impressive. Churchill said Laguna Beach won 13 of 19 Orange Coast League titles this year.
“It’s just a climate where they kids enjoy being out for sports," Churchill said. “I think our coaches are doing a real good job with them. The climate here is for excellence, and athletics is just a part of being there."
For the next two weeks, the Coastline Pilot will be taking a look at a special year in Laguna Beach High athletics. This week we will do a year-in-review for girls’ sports, with boys’ sports to follow next week.
The Breakers failed to win CIF for the first time in three seasons, falling to Dos Pueblos in a four-game thriller in the CIF Southern Section Division I-A semifinals. But it was still a successful season for Laguna Beach, which again won the Orange Coast League title.
Breakers Alexandra Palmer (bound for Santa Clara) and Piper Obradovich (USC) shared the league MVP award.
“I think we played some pretty darn good volleyball this year, and I’m so proud of this team and their efforts," Coach Lance Stewart said. “The girls improved from start to finish and that’s all you can ask for as a coach."
Laguna Beach shared the Golden West League title with Estancia. Junior Grace Komoroczy was the MVP of the league, and Karina Shaw, Christianne Kinder and Jenni Coury also made the all-league team.
Coach Steve Lalim’s squad won league and finished ninth at the CIF Southern Section Division IV finals. Freshman Natasha Strickland was the top finisher in 19 minutes, 52 seconds, followed by Kativa Strickland and Parker Yamasaki.
Laguna Beach finished No. 10 in the state Division IV rankings.
“Even though we didn’t qualify to the State meet, we had a very successful season," Lalim said. “Our team chemistry is awesome and our future is bright, with six of our top seven runners returning next year."
The league champion Breakers were ousted in the CIF Southern Section Division I quarterfinals by eventual champion Dana Hills, 15-3.
Laguna Beach was without No. 1 singles player Alex Tachovsky, who had a prior commitment. Tachovsky also missed time during the season due to injury but junior Maddie Jaeger stepped up in singles as well. The No. 1 doubles team of Lauren Michaels and Haley Moss was solid all year as well for Coach Jimmy Gleason’s team.
It was a tough year for the Breakers, who finished 4-17, 3-5 in league.
But Laguna Beach won three of its last five games in league as sophomore Emily Writer led the way. Writer, who averaged 22.3 points per game, was a first-team all-league selection.
“We didn’t play our best but we played with intensity and, as demonstrated by the last few weeks of the season, have learned how to win," Coach Jon Hendrickson said.
The Breakers had come close to winning a CIF title the last couple of years, but finished it off this year by taking the Division II title with a 9-5 victory over Montebello in the championship game.
Laguna Beach, led by seniors like Stanford-bound Annika Dries, Cal-bound Taylor Dodson and UCLA-bound Natasha Schulman, was top-ranked in Division II all season long. Dries, a two-meter player, was named Orange Coast League and Division II Player of the Year.
Coach Ethan Damato’s club also had a key contribution in the title game by freshman Melena Masson, who scored twice. The Breakers also went on to finish third at the now-discontinued CIF Masters Meet.
“My team is so great," said Schulman, a defender. “We worked hard and no one took anything for granted. No one tried to be the diva. We all just worked together because we wanted this. This feeling of winning [CIF] is so amazing."
Laguna had one of the better seasons in program history, clinching a CIF playoff berth for the first time in nine years.
Once there, the Breakers topped Artesia, 2-1, in an overtime Division III wild-card match before falling in the first round.
Senior defender/midfielder Holden Penney was named the Orange Coast League MVP, and was joined on the first team by juniors Kelsey Peterson and Jessie Goodman. They all anchored a defense that gave up just 20 goals in 25 games.
TRACK & FIELD
Penney also stood out in track, where she was a four-event league champion (100 meters, 200, long jump, 400 relay).
As a team, the Breakers finished second to defending champion Costa Mesa. Natasha Strickland also won a pair of events at league finals, the 800 and 1600.
Laguna Beach had its most successful girls’ swim season in school history. Not only did the Breakers defend their league title, but they finished second at the CIF Southern Section Division III finals. Dries (Stanford), Chelsea Wild (USC), Dodson (Cal) and Andrea Reigel (UCLA) set a Division III meet record in the 200 free relay (1:38.37).
“They wanted to beat that record and they smashed it," first-year Coach Kari Johnson said.
“That’s so huge for Laguna. This aquatics season has been amazing. A CIF record in the relay, and second place in CIF. At the start of the year, I never imagined we would get second in CIF."
Reigel also finished second in Division III in both the 200 individual medley and 100 free.
At the Orange Coast League finals, the dominant Laguna Beach squad won every event, including relays.