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Laguna Beach High girls’ water polo adds two more college commitments

Molly Renner scored 63 goals last year for CIF Southern Section Division 1 champion Laguna Beach girls' water polo.
Molly Renner, who has committed to play at UCLA, scored 63 goals last year for CIF Southern Section Division 1 champion Laguna Beach girls’ water polo.
(Jeff Antenore)

The Laguna Beach High School girls’ water polo team now has almost enough college commits to fill a full starting roster.

Incoming seniors Molly Renner and Imani Clemons recently committed to UCLA and UC Santa Barbara, respectively, bringing the total to six.

They joined 2019-20 Daily Pilot Dream Team Player of the Year Nicole Struss (UCLA), Emma Lineback (UCLA), Emma Singer (Cal) and Jessie Rose (Cal) as Breakers who have committed to play in college.

These players have helped the Breakers win back-to-back CIF Southern Section Division 1 titles, and five in the last seven years.

“I’m proud of the program and proud of our ability to prepare girls for the next level each year,” Laguna Beach coach Ethan Damato said. “Specifically, this group is such a talented and committed group. They’ve won at every level and they’ve worked really, really hard. It’s pretty fitting [to see this many college commits], considering the amount of talent that we have in this class.”

Renner, an attacker and first-team All-CIF and Dream Team selection, had 63 goals, 43 assists and 34 steals for the Breakers (33-1) last winter. The four-year varsity player said she picked UCLA partially due to the camaraderie of the team, which will be adding at least three current Breakers and already has Laguna alumni Quinn Winter (goalkeeper) and Alex Peros on the roster, with 2020 graduate Morgan Van Alphen on the way.

“Quinn gave me updates throughout her whole training experience and said how much fun she had,” Renner said. “Even though it was a grind, everybody was grinding together. I like that idea, that everyone is together ...
I think four more years will be super fun, especially with Nicole and Emma, just because they’re ballers. Playing with them is super fun, because you get them the ball and they put it away or do something good with it.”

Clemons is entering her third year on varsity and had 27 goals, six assists and 15 steals last year. She said UC Santa Barbara also has a Laguna feel, with alumni Claire Kelly and Evie Laptin on the team. She has improved a lot after not playing the center position until her freshman year.

“I think she’s one of the best centers in the country,” Damato said. “I think she happens to be playing behind, in my opinion, the best one [Struss] ... When you have Nicole on one team at practice and Imani on the other, you know that the center position is going to be really difficult to defend every day.”

Damato said he hopes to eventually have all 11 seniors commit to play in college. The other incoming seniors are Rachael Carver, Kenedy Corlett, Skylar Kidd, Mikayla Lopez and Ella Baumgarten.

The 2020-21 girls’ water polo season is set to begin with first matches on Dec. 28, pending health clearance due to COVID-19. The Breakers will more than likely be favorites for their third straight Division 1 title, which is something the program has yet to accomplish despite its recent storied history.

“I think everyone committing has been a little bittersweet because we’re starting to realize that it’s coming to an end, and we’re not going to be all playing together on the same team like we have been,” Clemons said. “But it’s also definitely been one of the proudest moments, being their friend and all of us committing. It’s super exciting, because it’s what we’ve been working for.”

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