Laguna faces major test

Coming off a fifth-place finish at the Riverside Poly Tournament, the Laguna Beach High boys' water polo team is competing this week in its most challenging event on its schedule, the South Coast Tournament.

The 32-team tournament began Thursday, continues today and concludes Saturday at four pool sites: Newport Harbor, Corona del Mar, Foothill and Tustin. Laguna, the No. 3 seed in its pool, will compete at Foothill High, along with No. 1-seed Mater Dei, No. 2 Los Alamitos, Santa Barbara, Foothill, Dana Hills, University and Rancho Buena Vista.

Loyola is the defending tournament champion. The Cubs are back to defend their title and are the No. 1-seed in the Corona del Mar pool.

The tournament final is set for 4:05 p.m. Saturday at Newport Harbor.

"This is our toughest tournament of the year," Laguna Coach Ethan Damato said. "There are only a handful of D-3 teams and the rest are D1 and D2 teams from Santa Barbara to San Diego. Should be a great challenge, as every game will be a tough one."

At last week's Riverside Poly Tournament, which concluded Saturday, Laguna went 4-1. The Breakers defeated San Marcos (24-8), Great Oak (19-1), Royal (14-8) and Los Osos (18-6). Their lone loss was to Agoura (10-9).

"We finished the tournament 4-1, which was our goal heading into the tournament," Damato said. "We would have liked to have played in the top four, but we learned a lot from our loss to Agoura in the quarterfinals and I think we are a better team from it. The guys played very well on Saturday, beating two good teams in Royal and Los Osos. We still have a lot of areas to improve, but we are moving in the right direction.

"I thought Nolan McConnell had an outstanding tournament on both sides of the pool, leading us in both goals and steals over the weekend. Spencer Dodson also had a great weekend and provided a much-needed spark and leadership on Saturday after our loss to Agoura. I was very pleased with the play of our goalie Erik Henrickson as well, who averaged 13 saves a game and had a tournament-high of 18 against Great Oak."

Next week, the Breakers host El Segundo at 4 p.m. Tuesday in nonleague play.

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