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Laguna fares well at O.C. Cup

The Laguna Beach Water Polo Club 14-and-under girls finished second in the recent Orange County Cup, held at the Woollett Aquatics Complex at Irvine High. The tournament had nine teams entered in the 14-and-under girls’ category from throughout Southern California.

Laguna fell in the Platinum Division gold-medal game to SoCal, 7-4, on March 21.

In the first round of games, Laguna played SET, a team from El Toro, winning, 8-2. The second game found Laguna beating Newport "” which practices out of Newport Harbor High "” in a defensive game, winning, 3-2.

With these two wins, Laguna won the preliminary round robin and advanced to face the winners of the other two pools.

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The first game was against a very strong team from the Inland Empire, Xtreme. Laguna has had trouble beating this team in the past but came out and played tremendous defense and jumped to a 4-0 lead in the first quarter. Xtreme found its rhythm and made the game competitive, but Laguna prevailed, 7-5.

In the game to determine the gold-medal winner, Laguna faced the team currently ranked No. 1 in the nation, Tusin-based SoCal. The game started as a defensive battle with the teams staying within one goal of each other. The score was tied at 3 headed into the fourth quarter. But one of Laguna’s strongest defenders fouled out of the game at the beginning of the fourth quarter and SoCal was quick to take advantage. Laguna ended up losing the game but won the silver at this competitive tournament.

“These girls are starting to play very well together and are developing into a real contender," Laguna program director Chad Beeler said. “We lost a couple of our key players at the beginning of the year, but the team is starting to rebound and play very good water polo. We still have a ways to go to be consistent, but they have the talent and desire to finish the season near the top in the nation."

12s take the bronze: The Laguna Beach Age Group 12-and-under girls’ team placed third in the Orange County Cup. With just four players returning from last year’s national championship team, the girls entered the O.C. Cup in the Platinum Division, which is the stronger of the two featured.

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The high-caliber O.C. Cup tournament hosted nine of the top teams from Orange, Riverside, San Diego and Los Angeles counties in a round-robin format. Laguna easily won its first game against the Irvine Anteater Club, 14-7, and also came out charging in its second game against last year’s nemesis, Newport Beach. Laguna got out to a great start and was leading by nine goals going into the fourth quarter. Newport mounted a great rally but came up short, 13-10. These two wins put Laguna in the medal round against the first-place finishers from the other two rounds.

In the first game of the medal round, Laguna played a tough and experienced SoCal team. It was a hard-fought match, with Laguna losing, 11-7. The final game of the weekend featured Laguna playing against Corona-based United. Laguna lost this hard-fought game, 10-6, but still managed to finish with the bronze medal.

“I am real proud of how this young team is developing," Beeler said. “Most girls on this team are brand new to water polo and for some girls, this was their first tournament. Some of them are still developing as swimmers, but I am confident that they will progress to qualify and place high in this summer’s national Junior Olympics."

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BASEBALL

Laguna Junior Varsity team soars: With Tuesday’s 6-2 victory against Estancia, the Laguna Beach High junior varsity baseball team improved its record to a league-leading 3-0 on the back of a strong pitching performance by left-hander Alex LeBon and a balanced hitting attack by the Breakers.

As good as last year’s league champion JV team was, this year’s team is an impressive 10-0 so far. Anchored by returning sophomore veterans like shortstop and pitcher Jack Pillsbury, catcher Harrison Williams, third baseman Travis Clawson and slugger Santi Pierini, the team also features one of the strongest freshmen classes in Laguna baseball history.

Among players with 20 at bats or more, Pierini is hitting .538 with five doubles and a triple. He also shares the team lead of 11 runs batted in with freshman first baseman Blake Hester, who is hitting .467. Joining Pierini and Hester in the hit parade is transfer and center fielder C.J. Rodriques, a leadoff batter with a team-leading 10 stolen bases.

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Freshman Jackson Reese was on the mound Thursday against Costa Mesa. He’s batting .364, shares the shortstop position with Pillsbury, and as a pitcher, he is 3-0 and 1-0 in league play.

Other members of the Breakers’ impressive freshmen class who have gotten off to a strong start include first baseman Larry Stewart, infielder Eli Cassard and outfielder Sean Carney.

The Breakers have a veteran coaching staff in Coach Mike Bair and assistant Jon Hendrickson. Joining the team this year as pitching coach is Grant Herrell.



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