It would be hard to tell with her all-around water polo skills, but Laguna Beach High senior Sophia Lucas actually grew up playing basketball.
Lucas said she was a post player for local NJB teams, often coached by her father Eric, who grew up playing hoops in Indiana.
In fourth grade, Sophia had a basketball coach with the same first name as her dad but a different spelling. Erich Fischer, an Olympian in men’s water polo in 1992, was coaching his daughter Aria in basketball and Sophia was on the team. He convinced Sophia to try water polo.
Aria, who won three CIF Southern Section Division 1 titles with Laguna Beach before graduating last year and heading off to Stanford, was the youngest women’s water polo Olympian in 2016 on a team that also featured her older sister Makenzie.
“It’s funny to think that I knew Aria through basketball before I knew her through water polo and now she’s an Olympic water polo player,” Lucas said.
The talent that has come through the Breakers program in the last several years is staggering. Lucas was great in her own right as a four-year varsity player. First, the Daily Pilot High School Female Athlete of the Week helped make sure that the Breakers’ eight-player senior class would leave with a title.
Lucas, who will play at USC next year, scored four goals as Laguna Beach beat Los Alamitos 11-6 in the inaugural CIF Southern California Regional Division II title game on March 3 at Corona del Mar High. Fittingly enough, coach Ethan Damato used a basketball term to describe Lucas’ efforts in that final.
“She balled,” Damato said. “That was probably one of her best games of the entire year. She had two goals at the end of the second quarter, then opened the third quarter with two really nice goals on assists by Evan Tingler.”
The goals helped Laguna Beach (26-3) erase an early 3-1 deficit, Damato said. The win helped the Breakers erase some of the pain caused by an upset loss to Santa Barbara San Marcos, the eventual CIF Southern Section Division 1 champion, in the quarterfinals.
Despite being unable to defend the Division 1 title, Lucas said it was meaningful for the senior class to come back to earn fifth place in Division 1, as well as the regional title.
“I really wanted to end on a high note,” said Lucas, who ditched basketball in eighth grade to play water polo full time.
Lucas certainly did that in a senior year in which she led the Breakers in goals (67) and steals (42). Her 25 assists ranked second on Laguna Beach to Tingler.
Following the graduation of Aria Fischer last year, Damato often played Lucas at center out of necessity. He knew she didn’t really like jostling for position at two meters, but she was willing to do what the team needed to succeed.
“I think my skill set grew a lot this year because I had to work on doing inside work, trying to hold two meters,” she said. “In the past, I haven’t had to do that. I think overall, it made me a lot better of a player, but in the moment it wasn’t always fun.”
Lucas is excited to play for coach Jovan Vavic at USC next season. She’s part of a recruiting class that also includes Los Alamitos senior Bayley Weber and Corona del Mar senior goalkeeper Erin Tharp. Weber has been a player Lucas, who is also a standout defender, has had to guard whenever the Breakers would play the Griffins over the last couple of years.
She also took her role as a senior leader seriously. That was especially true on a team that had three freshmen — Nicole Struss, Molly Renner, and Rachael Carver — play a significant role. Lucas knew what it was like being a freshman on varsity. In her freshman season of 2014-15, it was a senior class led by Makenzie Fischer that welcomed her aboard.
“Now [the freshmen] know to do that for future generations,” Lucas said. “That’s something that makes Laguna really special, that everyone can come in and feel really comfortable. I’m really proud to say that I played for Laguna Beach. However we do, if we win or don’t win, the type of people that come through this program are dedicated and hard-working, genuinely kind people.”
Born: Dec. 5, 1999
Hometown: Laguna Beach
Height: 5 feet 7
Sport: Water polo
Coach: Ethan Damato
Favorite food: Sushi
Favorite movie: “Titanic”
Favorite athletic moment: As a junior, helping Laguna Beach earn a 14-4 win over Goleta Dos Pueblos in the semifinals of the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs.
Week in review: Lucas scored seven goals in three games, including four in an 11-6 championship game win over Los Alamitos, as Laguna Beach won the CIF Southern California Division II regional final at Corona del Mar High.