A player’s grade level usually doesn’t matter on a talented and deep team like the Laguna Beach High girls’ water polo team, but Friday afternoon it did.
The Breakers celebrated their five-player senior class on senior day. Goalkeeper Quinn Winter, Claire Kelly, Cici Stewart, Evie Laptin and Bryn Gioffredi all started Laguna Beach’s regular-season finale against visiting Rancho Cucamonga Los Osos.
The quintet also all finished the match. And they all contributed along the way.
All four senior field players scored at least once as Laguna Beach beat Los Osos 16-3 in its final tune-up before the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs begin with the quarterfinal round Thursday.
Top-ranked Laguna Beach (26-1) will more than likely get the top seed in Division 1 when brackets are released at 9 a.m. Saturday. But this match was about the seniors and their contributions to the program.
Winter (UCLA), Kelly (UC Santa Barbara), Stewart (Princeton), Laptin (UC Santa Barbara) and Gioffredi (Brown University) are all moving on to play in college.
“We definitely came into today with the intention of them playing a lot, and us playing for them,” Breakers coach Ethan Damato said. “This class has been really special, because they’ve been kind of waiting their turn to play. This class started with more girls than it finished with, and these are the girls that stuck it through. For all five of them to finish it together, and all five of them going to play in college at the schools they wanted to play at … that’s amazing to me. I think it’s a testament to their hard work over these four years.”
Stewart scored a match-high three goals for the Breakers, while Kelly and sophomores Nicole Struss and Molly Renner both scored two goals each.
Laptin, Gioffredi, Morgan Van Alphen, Imani Clemons, Rachael Carver, Lela McCarroll and Tea Poljak also all scored for the winners. Winter made all six of her saves in the second half.
“As our last game together, we just wanted it to be a really positive experience,” Stewart said. “Ethan wasn’t screaming at us like he normally does. We’ve been playing together for six years, so it was really special to us as a last game … A big part of our team is growing up together in Laguna, so that’s why senior day is really special. It’s like a family here.”
Gabrielle Aguilar of Los Osos (13-14), which is ranked No. 20 in Division 1 and 2, scored a lob goal early in the first quarter to tie the score at 1-1. But the Breakers would quickly pull away. They led 6-1 after the quarter and 11-2 at halftime.
After the match, the team’s three juniors — Poljak, Van Alphen and defender Grace Houlahan — each took turns saying what the seniors meant to them, and each of the five seniors received a bouquet of flowers.
“I thought it was special,” Laptin said. “We’ve been playing together for so many years. To go through our whole journey together and finish it together on such a strong, positive note, it was special for us.”
The Breakers will now turn their attention to the Division 1 playoffs. Even if they are the top seed as expected, they can’t be overconfident. Last year they were the No. 2 seeds, but were upset by eventual champion Santa Barbara San Marcos in the quarterfinal round.