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Laguna Beach girls’ water polo rallies for Irvine Southern California Championships title

Quinn Winter saw Brooke Hourigan directly in front of her, only a couple of meters away. There were no defenders in sight.

The Laguna Beach High girls’ water polo team was up by a goal with seconds remaining in the Irvine Southern California Championships tournament title match, but after the Breakers committed an offensive foul, Hourigan appeared destined to tie it up for Orange Lutheran and send it to overtime.

“Honestly, it’s the last few seconds,” Winter said. “You’ve just got to give it all you’ve got. I can’t really remember what I was thinking. It all just kind of happened.”

The senior goalkeeper Winter came through, blocking the shot with her left hand. It deflected off the right goalpost, preserving the Breakers’ 8-7 victory over the Lancers on Saturday afternoon at Woollett Aquatics Center.

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Top-seeded Laguna Beach (24-1) won its second major tournament of the season, and won the Southern California Championships for the fifth time in six years. As importantly, the Breakers are unquestionably the top team in CIF Southern Section Division 1 and 2 with a week remaining in the regular season, though Laguna Beach has a big match against Corona del Mar at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Newport Harbor High to clinch the outright Surf League title.

Winter, who made seven saves in the final and 14 saves in a 7-6 semifinal victory over Goleta Dos Pueblos, earned the tournament’s Most Outstanding Goalie honors. Sophomore left-hander Emma Lineback, who had a goal in the final, was the Most Outstanding Field Player. Lineback also drew a five-meter penalty shot with 52 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, which sophomore Molly Renner put away for the eventual game-winning goal.

Junior Tea Poljak and sophomore Nicole Struss earned all-tournament team honors for Laguna Beach.

Morgan Van Alphen scored twice in the final for the Breakers, who rallied from a 2-0 halftime deficit to Orange Lutheran. Poljak, Struss and seniors Claire Kelly and Bryn Gioffredi also scored.

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“I don’t think we ever give up,” Poljak said. “We all love each other so much. We were talking about it at half and before the game, that we were just going to play for each other and prove to ourselves and everyone else that we should be ranked No. 1. We just gave our all.”

Laguna Beach coach Ethan Damato said that Gioffredi and sophomore Jessie Rose were part of a fresh group that he put in during the third quarter that helped energize the team.

“We just tried to get a little bit more movement going,” Damato said. “We brought in a fresh group … and I thought that changed the dynamic of the game. They got us rolling and came out with a ton of energy.

“This team has done an amazing job of just playing consistently throughout the course of this year. I think that’s been such a great trademark of this team. We’ve come to battle every single day, every single tournament. I think we’re getting a lot of team’s best every time that we play them … but it meant a lot to finish our last tournament together the right away. For them to be able to find a way today meant a lot.”

Leslie Haynes led Orange Lutheran (16-6) with three goals in the final.

Poljak had three goals for Laguna Beach in the semifinal victory over Dos Pueblos, which Laguna Beach led 7-2 in the fourth quarter before withstanding a late rally. Struss, Kelly, Lineback and junior defender Grace Houlahan also scored.

matthew.szabo@latimes.com

Twitter: @mjszabo

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