Laguna Beach girls’ water polo beats Corona del Mar for outright Surf League title


The ultimate goal for the Laguna Beach High girls’ water polo team is the CIF Southern Section Division 1 title.

Winning the Surf League was another difficult task that shouldn’t be overlooked. Not with talented opponents like Corona del Mar, Newport Harbor and Los Alamitos lurking.

Laguna Beach answered the call in all six of its matches in the new league, however. The latest result, a 6-4 victory over Corona del Mar on Tuesday night at Newport Harbor High in the league finale, clinched the outright league title for the Breakers.

Sophomore Molly Renner scored three goals as Laguna Beach (26-1, 6-0 in league) finished strong, scoring four goals in the fourth quarter that began in a 2-2 tie.

Just to win in this league means a lot, in our first year. I knew it was going to be tough. I didn’t know it was going to be this tough.

— Ethan Damato, Laguna Beach High coach

It is the 54th straight league win for Laguna Beach, which is the top-ranked team in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 and 2 poll and won its 13th straight league title. The previous 12 came in the Orange Coast League.

“I’m really stoked for the girls,” Breakers coach Ethan Damato said. “Just to win in this league means a lot, in our first year. I knew it was going to be tough. I didn’t know it was going to be this tough. What a battle every night.”

No. 6-ranked CdM (17-7, 4-2), which finished in second place, lost its three matches against Laguna Beach this regular season by a combined four goals. The teams stayed within a goal until the fourth quarter Tuesday.

Nicole Struss assisted Renner’s goal on the opening possession of the quarter. Then Renner assisted Struss’ goal, as Laguna Beach built a 4-2 lead with 6:10 remaining.

CdM senior Sophie Wallace (two goals) and senior Carter Britt responded with goals, Britt’s coming on the power play and tying the score at 4-4.

But Renner scored a redirect goal on sophomore Emma Lineback’s assist. Lineback then drew a penalty shot with two minutes to go, and junior Tea Poljak put it away.

Laguna Beach's Tea Poljak takes a shot during a Surf League match against Corona del Mar on Tuesday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Laguna Beach was on its way to its 11th straight win.

“I thought we started off a little flat,” Damato said. “We’ve got to figure out a way to play better earlier on offense, I think. That’s a goal moving forward for us … [but] this team has just shown up day after day to compete. I couldn’t be more proud of them. I think the world of their heart and their toughness. It’s been a fun year.”

Senior Claire Kelly had an assist and a match-high four steals for Laguna Beach, while the quickly emerging left-hander Lineback had two assists. Senior goalkeeper Quinn Winter made five saves.

“They’re always a hard team for us to play,” Kelly said of the Sea Kings. “They’ve always been good. We just knew [a win] would give us that confidence going into CIF.”

Laguna Beach closes out the regular season with a home match against Rancho Cucamonga Los Osos on Friday at 4 p.m.

Senior Layne Anzaldo also scored Tuesday for CdM, while junior goalkeeper Maya Avital made nine saves. The Sea Kings’ regular season is over. The CIF Southern Section playoff pairings will be released Saturday.

“It’s that attention to detail all the time,” CdM coach Justin Papa said of what separates Laguna Beach. “For 98% of the game, I feel like we’re as good or better than Laguna. We’re going toe-to-toe with the best team in the division. Then in the other 1-2% of the game, we’re making tiny mistakes that cost us. Against good teams, those little mistakes will cost you. I think if we clean up those mistakes, we’re one of the best teams in the division. We’ve proved that three times against Laguna.”

Twitter: @mjszabo