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Laguna Beach’s Nicole Struss is Surf League Player of the Year in girls’ water polo

Laguna Beach’s Nicole Struss takes a shot under pressure from Los Osos’ Brooklyn Young during a nonl
Laguna Beach’s Nicole Struss, shown shooting against Rancho Cucamonga Los Osos on Feb. 1, helped the Breakers win the inaugural Surf League title.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Laguna Beach High sophomore utility player Nicole Struss has earned Surf League MVP honors in girls’ water polo after helping the Breakers win the inaugural league title.

Laguna Beach senior goalkeeper Quinn Winter and junior attackers Morgan Van Alphen and Tea Poljak earned first-team honors, as did Corona del Mar senior attacker Sophie Wallace and junior goalkeeper Maya Avital, as well as Newport Harbor senior defender Brooke Banta.

Struss was third on Laguna Beach (31-2, 6-0 in league) with 44 goals, adding 26 assists and 26 steals. She scored four combined goals in two league showdowns against second-place CdM, an 8-7 victory on Jan. 17 and a 6-4 win on Jan. 29.

The Breakers went on to win the CIF Southern Section Division 1 title, defeating the Sea Kings 9-8 in sudden-death overtime on Feb. 16. Laguna Beach was the CIF Southern California Regional Division I runner-up, losing 11-8 to Orange Lutheran in the title match.

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Winter, headed to UCLA, made 257 saves for Laguna Beach. Van Alphen, also a verbal commit to UCLA, was fourth on the Breakers with 42 goals and also had 27 assists and 19 steals.

Poljak, a USC commit, tied for the team lead with 48 goals and also had a team-best 38 assists and 35 steals, which ranked second on the Breakers.

Wallace, bound for Stanford, had a team-best 64 goals, 19 assists and 35 steals for CdM (20-8, 4-2), the league and Division 1 runner-up. Avital made 215 saves.

Banta, bound for UCLA, had 37 field blocks and 49 steals. She helped the Sailors (18-12, 2-4) finish third in league and advance to the Division 1 quarterfinals, losing 5-3 to Orange Lutheran. Newport Harbor went on to finish seventh in Division 1.

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Second-team all-league selections included Laguna Beach sophomore attacker Molly Renner and junior defender Grace Houlahan, CdM junior defender Megan Peterson and senior attacker Carter Britt, and Newport Harbor senior center Annie Rankin and senior attacker Kili Skibby.

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