Home games usually provide an advantage for teams.
While the Laguna Beach High boys’ water polo team surely appreciates the support from its fans, playing in the community pool across the street from the high school does not do the Breakers any favors.
Laguna Beach played its third home game of the season Saturday, a nonleague affair with Murrieta Valley. Two of those games have now produced upset victories for the visitors.
Murrieta Valley senior Weston Restad scored with two seconds left in regulation and the Nighthawks shocked the Breakers 8-7.
Laguna Beach, ranked No. 7 in CIF Southern Section Division 1 and 2, could not capitalize on its opportunities against No. 19 Murrieta Valley. The Breakers converted just three of their 12 power-play chances, though the Nighthawks also struggled by converting two of 10 chances.
First-year Breakers coach Robert Grayeli said his team lacked energy, but the pool also does not do his team any favors. Laguna Beach also was upset by La Verne Damien at home, 9-8, on Sept. 11.
“We can’t play in this pool because we can’t counter, the goal is smaller,” Grayeli said. “I’m almost thinking that next year we’re going to schedule our [home] games somewhere else, [Irvine’s] Woollett [Aquatics Center] or something. I don’t know. It’s very hard for us, because we excel at countering … Everything is just a little bit off. It’s just disappointing.”
Senior Colton Gregory led Laguna Beach (9-7) with four goals. Zach Cord, Will Clark and Logan McCarroll also scored for the Breakers, who got a team-best four steals from James Nolan, and eight saves and three steals from junior goalkeeper Caden Capobianco.
Capobianco made back-to-back saves on the five-on-six with less than three minutes remaining in the game, keeping it tied at 7-7. But Nolan had two shots in the final minutes go off the crossbar, and another was shot right at Murrieta Valley goalkeeper Collin Winters (eight saves) with a minute to go.
Gregory had the ball stolen from him on Laguna’s next possession, setting up Restad’s game-winner for Murrieta Valley (8-9). He was closely guarded by Cord, but made the skip-shot into the near side of the net.
“Crazy,” Nighthawks coach Bryan Linton said. “I would tell you he did it just like I taught him, but I had no clue what he was doing. He knew the clock, and he knew we needed to get a shot on goal. We were running out of gas … so I’m glad we didn’t go to overtime.”
Jon Lafferty and Garrett Ritter each scored two goals for the visitors. Linton said his team earned its second upset victory of the season on the road, after winning at Palos Verdes 15-14 on Sept. 19. Palos Verdes is No. 13 in Division 1 and 2.
Grayeli said Breakers junior Marshall Eichenauer III missed Saturday’s game with a shoulder injury.
Laguna Beach returns to action with another nonleague home game against Dana Hills on Monday at 4:15 p.m. The Dolphins are ranked No. 16 in Division 1 and 2.
“I think this is a good wakeup call for us,” Gregory said. “We can’t just walk in and expect to win. You have to play for four quarters.”