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Laguna Beach girls’ water polo routs Mater Dei to open Newport Summer Invite

Kara Carver (2) of Laguna Beach shoots and scores against Mater Dei.
Kara Carver (2) of Laguna Beach shoots and scores against Mater Dei during the girls’ Summer Invite water polo tournament hosted by Newport Harbor on Friday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

As a movie about Elvis Presley rakes in money at the box office, a different Presley seeks to make her mark for the Laguna Beach High girls’ water polo team.

Incoming sophomore Presley Jones, an accomplished club player who scored nine goals last year as a freshman for the Breakers, has not looked all shook up. She actually has a lot of composure, and wants to take her game to the next level this season.

“I think we’re excited for this new team and to see what we can do as this year progresses,” Jones said. “It’s fun to be playing all together this early in the season, just getting back into the groove of things.”

Laguna Beach has several returners who want to shine in key roles this winter. Even in the middle of the summer, the Breakers opened a key offseason tournament strong Friday afternoon.

Charlotte Riches (4) of Laguna Beach turns and fires a shot for score against Mater Dei on Friday.
Charlotte Riches (4) of Laguna Beach turns and fires a shot for score against Mater Dei during the girls’ Summer Invite water polo tournament hosted by Newport Harbor on Friday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Incoming senior center Charlotte Riches scored four goals and Jones added three as Laguna Beach topped Mater Dei, 16-1, in its first Newport Summer Invite pool play game at Newport Harbor High.

The three-day tournament features eight teams. They include a top team from the Bay Area (Miramonte High of Orinda) and top club players from San Diego, playing for Shores.

Laguna Beach also has a new coach, as alumna Claire Sonne has taken over for long-time coach Ethan Damato. Sonne led the girls, playing as SET Maroon, to a Futures Super Finals tournament win last weekend at Los Alamitos High.

Sonne earned Best Coach accolades, Riches was named MVP and Laguna Beach incoming senior goalkeeper Lauren Schneider earned top goalie honors.

Lauren Short of Laguna Beach looks to pass against Mater Dei during the girls' Summer Invite water polo tournament on Friday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Besides Damato’s departure, Laguna Beach lost three key senior starters — Ava Houlahan, Lela McCarroll and Hannah Carver — to graduation. This weekend the team is also without incoming junior standout Ava Knepper, who’s playing for Team USA in the Junior Pan American Championships in Indiana beginning Monday.

Damato is the Women’s Youth National Team head coach for the tournament, while Newport Harbor coach Ross Sinclair is guiding the Men’s Youth National Team.

“We’re really excited to see our younger players step into new roles,” Riches said. “We lost a good amount of seniors last year. People like Presley, who’s going to be a sophomore, she’s really stepping in and making her mark on the team.

“We miss [Knepper] so much, but it’s also a great opportunity for people to step up and show that they can be great outside shooters. They can take her place while she’s away, then when she’s back, we’ll have Ava plus all of those players that stepped up and showed that they’re strong shooters.”

Kara Carver, Lauren Short and Emerson Hensley each added two goals Friday for Laguna Beach. Cleo Washer, Myha Pinto and Jordan Schneider scored one goal each for the winners, who led 10-0 at halftime.

Charlotte Riches (4) of Laguna Beach turns and fires a shot for score at close range against Mater Dei  on Friday.
Charlotte Riches (4) of Laguna Beach turns and fires a shot for score at close range against Mater Dei during the girls’ Summer Invite water polo tournament hosted by Newport Harbor on Friday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Schneider made two first-half saves and Natasha Denny made four saves in the second half.

Pinto, a rising senior, led Laguna Beach with three assists, and she and Hensley each had three steals.

Mater Dei finally got on the scoreboard with a goal by Riley Johnson late in the third quarter.

Laguna Beach closes out pool play with games Saturday against San Marcos at 11:20 a.m. and Miramonte at 5:10 p.m.

Newport Harbor's Avery Montiel, left, defends against San Diego Shores during the Summer Invite hosted on Friday.
Newport Harbor’s Avery Montiel (3), left, defends against San Diego Shores during the Summer Invite hosted on Friday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

In other pool-play action Friday at Newport Harbor High, host Newport was edged by San Diego Shores 8-7 in its opener. Ryan Chalupnik and Chiara Amoroso each had two goals for Newport.

The Sailors continue pool play with games against Santa Margarita at 10:10 a.m., and Foothill at 1:40 p.m., on Saturday.

The Newport Summer Invite semifinals are at 10:50 a.m. and noon on Sunday, with the title match scheduled for 4:40 p.m.

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