The Laguna Beach High boys' cross-country team was at half strength for its season opener Saturday, but that didn't prevent the Breakers from grabbing the spotlight at the Laguna Hills Invitational.
In his first meet of the 2010 season, senior Matt Neev won the Division 3 boys' race in 15 minutes 48.27 seconds. Neev finished well ahead of runner-up Austin Barvin of Corona del Mar, who was second in 15:59.79.
Breakers boys' Coach Scott Wittkop said the invite was a "good day" for his team, adding that only half of his varsity runners ran Saturday.
"It was a race that we trained through and the kids responded the way we thought they would," he said.
For the Laguna Beach girls' cross-country team, Natasha Strickland topped the Breakers' leader board with a time of 20:47. She was followed by Marlee Grosher (21:25), Grace Clark (22:00), Audrey Rodriguez (22:17), Taylor Capobianco (22:20), Sophie Radach (22:49) and Anya Miller (23:11).
"I thought we ran a little flat at Laguna Hills," girls' Coach Steve Lalim said. "The girls came into the race a little tired, coming off a tough week of training and completing their first week of school. But I'm OK with them running tired, as long as we're firing and running well in November. We have a little work to do to get where I'd like, but this team is loaded with 39 girls who are willing to work hard, and they'll do whatever it takes to succeed.
"This 2010 girls team is a special team. I've never had so much fun coaching. It's going to be a great year. I'm super excited to see what this team can accomplish."
Lalim said the 2010 team captains were announced Tuesday and the five captains are Capobianco, Radach, Beverly Ronses, Austin Schlatter and Carly Savage, all seniors and four-year varsity runners.
Both Laguna teams are in San Diego on Saturday to compete at the Mt. Carmel Invitational.
The Breakers on Tuesday hosted their first match of the season, which ended in a 12-6 nonleague loss to Dana Hills. No. 1 singles player Taylor Nederlander swept by scores of 6-3, 6-0, 7-6 and No. 2 singles Claire Jaeger won her final two sets (2-6, 6-0, 7-5).
Laguna opened its season Sept. 9 at Newport Harbor and dropped an 11-7 match to the Sailors. Nederlander swept at No. 1 singles (6-1, 6-1, 6-1) and the Breakers' top doubles team of Haley Moss/Bianca Sganga also swept (6-4, 6-1, 6-1).
The Breakers host Sage Hill at 3 p.m. today. Next week, they'll play at El Toro on Tuesday and University on Thursday. Both nonleague matches start at 3 p.m.
Boys' Water Polo
Laguna began the new season last Friday and fell in an exciting match to host Villa Park, 14-13. The Breakers' Nolan McConnell tied for game-high scoring honors with five goals and also had a team-high two assists. Jack Clark scored three goals, Spencer Dodson had two goals and an assist, Tyler Mancusso scored once with an assist and Camron Hauer and Nicky Brunner each scored once. Erik Henrickson had eight saves.
Villa Park is the No. 4-ranked team in CIF Division 2.
The Breakers, despite the close loss, are ranked No. 1 in this week's Division 3 poll.
"Villa Park is a great program year in and year out and was an outstanding challenge for us in our first game," Breakers Coach Ethan Damato said. "They came out strong early and jumped on us 6-2. I thought our guys showed a lot of heart battling back and tying the game three different times. In the end, we didn't play well enough on the defensive end to win. That is an area of the pool we take a lot of pride in and we just didn't play the way we know we should.
"We have been working hard to fix that this week and have goals of improving this weekend. I think you will see some much better defensive play from us at the Riverside Poly Tournament."'
Laguna opened play Thursday at the Riverside Poly Tournament, which continues today and concludes Saturday. The Breakers are the No. 3-seed in the 64-team tournament. They finished seventh at the event last year.
The Breakers ran their Golden West League record to 4-1 Wednesday by scoring a 269-299 victory against Loara at Dad Miller Golf Course (par 35) in Anaheim. Junior Taylor Weiss shot a 45, her lowest score of the season, and earned medalist honors for the Breakers. Weiss had just 14 putts on nine holes. Junior Vivian Mendoza followed Weiss by shooting 49. Laguna started only five players for the match — two were out sick — including new player Hilary Jonus, a senior who played just her second match.
In a key league match Tuesday at Mesa Linda Golf Course (par 35) in Costa Mesa, Laguna fell to host Estancia, which won by a 230-272 score. The Eagles' Ashley Peters medaled with a score of 42. Weiss topped Laguna with a 47 and junior Laura Kawashiri shot a 52.
The Breakers previously had picked up a 270-333 league win Sept. 9 against Ocean View at Bella Collina Golf Course (par 36) in San Clemente. Mendoza played well, shooting 46 to record her best score of the season.
Laguna, 5-1 overall, plays a pair of league matches next week. The Breakers take on Westminster on Monday (3 p.m.) at David L. Baker Golf Course in Fountain Valley and then face Costa Mesa on Thursday (3 p.m.) at Mesa Linda Golf Course.