Center Annika Dries went to Stanford, while driver Taylor Dodson headed to Cal. Defender Natasha Schulman joined the UCLA Bruins, while goalie Sarah Zuziak headed to UC Santa Barbara.
The Laguna Beach High girls’ water polo team lost four talented graduates off last year’s CIF Southern Section Division II championship team. And, while a quick look at this year’s roster reveals just one senior in Stanford commit Lexie Ross, this is anything but a rebuilding year for the Breakers.
No need for that; the foundation still remains plenty strong.
“We have experience beyond our years, I guess," Coach Ethan Damato said. “We look pretty experienced and confident all the time. We may not be as big and physical as we’ve been in the past, but our chemistry and the way we shoot the ball, we’re a very dangerous team."
That was demonstrated as early as three years ago, when many of the current juniors and sophomores won the 14-and-under title at the prestigious Speedo Cup tournament in Missouri.
Dries, last year’s Orange Coast League MVP and Division II Player of the Year, was the Breakers’ primary center last year. This year that title will go to Ross, the dangerous lefty who scored 75 goals last year and was first-team all-league a year ago.
“She’s our primary two-meter player, really our only two-meter player," Damato said. “We have a bunch of attackers and utility players this year."
Drivers include junior Jessie Holechek, a second-team all-league selection last year when she scored 54 goals. Holechek also had a stellar game Tuesday in the Breakers’ season-opening 14-4 win over Mater Dei, with four goals and four assists.
“She’s really developed into a well-rounded player," Damato said. “She’s a jack of all trades but she’s a deadly, deadly shooter."
Sophomore Yoshi Andersen, another returning starter, was also a second-team all-leaguer last year. Her speed allows her to be deadly on the counterattack, said Damato, who also praised her perimeter defense and outside shot.
Primary defenders include junior Jessica Shusko and sophomore Melena Masson, two more second-team all-league players a year ago. Shusko was a key bench player the last two years for the Breakers but has also scored some huge goals for the team. Masson is currently out with a bad sickness, Damato said, and he doesn’t know when she’ll be able to return.
Junior Riley Duncan, a driver, is another starter and does a good job with her outside shot and on the counterattack. Fellow junior Lida DeGroote is a sharpshooter up top and freshman Lexie del Toro started.
“She came through our age-group program and she’s been awesome in practice," Damato said.
Junior Etianne Manetta, also a second-team all-league player last year, returns as starting goalie. The Breakers also have a pair of freshman contributors in lefty Mackenzie Baldridge and Manetta’s younger sister, Alia. Junior Kaitlin Waidley and freshmen Sydney Saxe and Kate Magnusson round out the roster.
The Breakers should have an easy time in league yet again and start the season ranked No. 2 in Division II, behind Palos Verdes.
“Last year, we were kind of head and shoulders above everyone [in Division II]," Damato said. “This year, from one to six, maybe one to seven, there are some really solid teams. Montebello is tough, San Clemente is tough."
Laguna will have a good early-season test when it hosts Edison, led by UC Irvine commit Danielle Warde, at 3:15 p.m. Tuesday.