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Laguna Beach girls’ water polo bounces back for third at Santa Barbara TOC

The Laguna Beach High girls’ water polo team came into the Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions top-ranked and undefeated, but that didn’t really guarantee the Breakers anything.

It’s a year of parity in CIF Southern Section Division 1 and 2. And after suffering its first loss of the season Saturday in a tournament semifinal, Laguna Beach came dangerously close to dropping back-to-back matches.

The Breakers ultimately responded.

Rachael Carver scored the go-ahead goal in the second overtime period as the Breakers beat Santa Barbara San Marcos 10-8 in the tournament third-place match at Dos Pueblos High in Goleta.


Senior goalkeeper Quinn Winter and sophomore Molly Renner were all-tournament team selections for Laguna Beach.

The last match was wild for the Breakers (15-1). They held a 7-3 halftime lead on San Marcos but briefly fell behind 8-7, when Cassidy Miller scored her match-high fourth goal for the Royals with 4:57 remaining in the fourth quarter.

“We were able to settle through their run and make enough plays at the end there, I guess,” Laguna Beach coach Ethan Damato said. “I didn’t really like that one very much. It was too up and down for me … [but] good to come out with a win today in the last game, however we had to do it.”

Breakers sophomore left-hander Emma Lineback (two goals) answered just more than two minutes later, and the match would move to overtime. After neither team scored in the first three-minute period, Carver came up big with her second goal.


“I was out for a quarter or two before that,” Carver said. “At the start of that second quarter of overtime, he put me in. I knew there were three minutes left for us to try to win. I just worked as hard as I could. We had some good looks, and I think Nicole [Struss] was setting at that time. Having her there and having people drop back was what opened me up, then I drew the exclusion. Everybody working together is what allows me to score that goal.”

Tea Poljak (three assists) and Struss also scored twice for the Breakers, who lost Lineback and Morgan Van Alphen during the match as both fouled out. Winter made three of her nine saves in overtime.

Earlier Saturday, the Breakers lost 4-3 to Foothill in a tournament semifinal. Poljak, Struss and Kenedy Corlett had the goals.

“We didn’t come out with enough energy and intensity,” Damato said. “I think it was a combination of things. It was a very slug-it-out type of game. They pressed us really hard, and that’s what we expected them to do. We didn’t react to the press very well.”

The loss to Foothill was the Breakers’ first at the Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions since 2016. Still, Laguna Beach went 3-1 in the tournament.

“We have a three-hour drive back to Laguna,” Carver said. “That would have been pretty rough coming home with two losses in one day, so I think we’re pretty happy. It’s not where we wanted to be, but that was the best we could do. We finished, so it was good.”

No. 3-seeded Orange Lutheran won the tournament title, defeating No. 4 Foothill 9-7 in the championship match.

In other tournament action from Saturday:


Corona del Mar 6, Dos Pueblos 3: Grace Myers scored three goals for the Sea Kings in the tournament fifth-place match.

Kira Hoffman, Sophie Wallace and Megan Peterson also scored for CdM (11-3), which had goalkeeper Maya Avital as an all-tournament team selection.

Earlier Saturday, CdM beat the Bishop’s School of La Jolla, 9-4. Wallace led the way with five goals.

“We were obviously disappointed in [Friday’s 8-7 overtime quarterfinal loss to San Marcos], but an important part of being an athlete is learning how to lose,” CdM coach Justin Papa said. “When you fall down, it’s how do you get yourself back up. Our goal today was to treat our first game like a semifinal and our second game like a final. Fifth place today, that was our goal. Even though we weren’t playing for first, we tried to treat both games like they were semifinal and final matchups.

“I was extremely proud of the way the girls responded. As young athletes, it’s not easy to rebound from a tough and emotional loss, and I thought they did that in spades.”

Newport Harbor 10, The Bishop’s School 7: Kili Skibby scored six goals for the Sailors in the tournament seventh-place match Saturday at Dos Pueblos.

Goalkeeper Erin Ross was an all-tournament team selection for Newport Harbor (11-6).

Harvard-Westlake 7, Huntington Beach 6: The Oilers finished 16th after dropping the 15th-place match Saturday.


Twitter: @mjszabo