Another banner year

Another year has come and gone. Heading into the past with it are several outstanding performances, both team-wise and individually, turned in by Laguna Beach High athletes during 2010.

Below are some of the key athletic highlights from the past 12 months that were reported to the Coastline Pilot:

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Winter

In an Orange Coast League girls' basketball game Jan. 25, Emily Writer scored 53 points in the Breakers' 71-64 loss to Costa Mesa to set a single-game scoring record. That total broke her own school record, which she set in 2009 when she scored 51 against the Mustangs.

By beating Godinez, 1-0, on Feb. 4, the girls' soccer team clinched third place in the Orange Coast League and secured a Division III playoff berth in the process. By doing so, it marked the first time in its history that the program had made the playoffs in back-to-back years.

The Orange Coast League boys' basketball title has been up for grabs four times since the league was formed at the start of the 2006-07 school year and in each instance, Laguna has done the taking. By defeating host Godinez, 48-38, on Feb. 10, the Breakers — who returned only one significant starter from the previous year — sewed up their fourth straight league crown.

"It's a great feeling (to win league again)," Coach Bret Fleming said. "This one was a little unexpected, but it's a credit to the kids. They kept working and kept fighting."

Senior guard Adam Selevan was named league MVP.

Hoping to repeat as CIF champion in girls' water polo, top-seed Laguna fell just short of that goal in a 6-5 loss to No. 2 Palos Verdes in the Division II title game in Irvine. It was the fourth title game appearance for the program in six years. Senior utility player Lexie Ross was named league's Most Valuable Player. Ross, Jessie Holechek, Jessica Shusko, Etianne Manetta Yoshi Andersen made the All-CIF Division II team. Ethan Damato was named co-Coach of the Year in the division.

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Spring

For the first time since 2007, Laguna fielded a softball team. Coach Mike Hunter's 18-player roster included 10 freshmen and the Breakers played a junior varsity Orange Coast League schedule.

"I like start-ups," Hunter said. "I fix programs that are broken. It's great to see the progression of the girls, how far they can come along. I love the challenge." The Breakers went on to a 13-5 season that included a 6-0 league mark.

The boys' tennis team won the Orange Coast League championship, then beat South Hills, Paloma Valley and Whitney in the Division IV playoffs before falling in the semifinals to top-seed Viewpoint. In an all-Orange Coast League singles final, Benito Romeo defeated teammate Hutton Mckena to win the title. The doubles final also was an all-Laguna affair, with Mike Rubel and Teague Hamilton defeating Alex Gromet and Cameron Cornell.

Laguna won the Orange Coast League boys' golf championship and three members of its team, seniors Charles Hewlett and Mike Cannon, and junior Andrew Palmer, moved on to CIF Individuals after the league finals at Sky Links Golf Course in Long Beach. Hewlett tied for second individually at league finals and Cannon and Palmer tied for third.

The 2010 season may have ended in a first-round playoff loss at Palm Desert, but the Laguna baseball team had plenty in which to be proud. By winning 16 games, the Breakers set a new school record for wins in a single season.

"I think we had a great year and the kids should be very proud of what they accomplished," Coach Jeff Sears said. "They played very hard and overcame a few issues to have a good season. They set a school record for wins and won a playoff game for the school for just the second time. They have a lot to be proud of."

Pitcher and shortstop Chris Paul was named to the All-CIF Division 4 team.

Laguna's swimming program capped a successful season by qualifying 15 swimmers for the CIF Southern Section-Toyota Division III Swimming and Diving Championships in May. Six of those athletes advanced from prelims to compete at the division final in their respective events. Five relay teams also advanced to the final. Both Laguna teams placed 15th in the division.

"The kids on the team are like a part of my family and I am honored to be a part of it," Coach Kari Johnson said. "I am very proud of the personal and team achievements they have made this year. I will be there for them every step of the way and I can't wait to see them improve again next season."

The school's track and field athletes turned in yet another memorable year, as both the boys' and girls' teams won league championships.

At the Orange Coast League championships in May, winning individual league titles for the girls were sophomore Natasha Strickland (1,600, 3,200 meters), sophomore Lauren Montgomery (100-meter hurdles), junior Samantha Gardner (shot put) and junior Christianne Kinder (high jump). Additionally, the Breakers' 4 X 100-meter relay team of senior Alex Degarmo, senior Christina Gardilcic, senior Sabina Seyster and senior Jessie Good Man won league.

At the CIF Track and Field Championships May 22, Strickland ran into the Laguna Beach record book by running an 11:06 in the girls' Division IV 3,200 meter run, good for fourth place in Division IV.

In winning the boys' Orange Coast League title, Sean Pigden (800 meters), Matt Neev (1,600 and 3,200) and Brett Linkletter (long jump), claimed individual titles.

Tommy Newton-Neal, Neev, Pigden and Linkletter moved on to the CIF Division IV finals, where Newton-Neal and Neev finished second and fourth, respectively, in the 1,600 meters, Pigden was eighth in the 800 and Linkletter was eighth (20-6) in the long jump.

The 2009-10 school year ended with the Laguna boys' volleyball team adding not one, but two titles to the program's illustrious history. When the Breakers swept defending champion Westlake to win the CIF Division II championship in late-May, they gave the school its first Southern Section title in the sport in 27 years. A week later, they repeated as CIF Southern California Regional Division 3 champion with a sweep of Santa Fe Christian of Solana Beach. Senior opposite Travis Woloson was named CIF Player of the Year and Lance Stewart Coach of the Year in the division, and seniors Scottie Chapel and Reed Thompson and juniors Robbie McKnight and Troy Donenfeld made All-CIF. Woloson and Chapel also shared the MVP award in the Orange Coast League.

"This has just been a tremendous year for our program and I'm just so happy for the kids," Stewart said. "They worked their tails off and sacrificed for each other, and they reaped the benefits of that hard work. The season had its tough moments, but a lot of great ones. What these kids can take with them is that they did something that no other Laguna Beach volleyball team has done, albeit that the regional tournament has only been held the last two years. They join a select group of Laguna volleyball teams that have won a CIF championship."

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Fall

Laguna Beach senior Taylor Pitz won the Open Women's division of National Scholastic Surfing Assn. (NSSA) Southwest Open Season series season opener. Pitz, who is headed to Stanford University next year, has since won two more Open Women's contest in the series.

By mid-October, the Laguna girls' golf team had earned a share of the 2010 Golden West League championship by winning its final three regular-season matches. The Breakers have won or shared three of the last four league crowns. Senior Christianne Kinder was one of four athletes from the league to qualify for the CIF Southern Section Girls' Golf Southern Individual Regional tournament.

In late-October, the Laguna girls' tennis team and boys' water polo team, ranked No. 1, both wrapped up Orange Coast League titles. A few weeks later, the boys' and girls' cross-country teams also had earned league championships.

November began with the Laguna girls' volleyball team improving to 50-0 all-time in Orange Coast League play by winning at league newcomer Saddleback. A sweep of the Roadrunners gave the Breakers their fifth consecutive league championship.

By defeating fifth-ranked Mira Costa, 5-2, in a CIF Division 3 semifinal game at the William Woollett Jr. Aquatic Center in Irvine in mid-November, Laguna's top-ranked boys' water polo team advanced to play for a Southern Section championship for the first time since 1996. Three days later, the Breakers would reap a bigger a prize: the program's first CIF championship. The top-ranked Breakers did so by defeating No. 2 Damien, 11-9. Junior Nolan McConnell was named Player of the Year and Ethan Damato was Coach of the Year in Division 3. Seniors Spencer Dodson and Jack Clark and junior Erik Henrikson also were named to the D-3 All-CIF team.

"I really can't put into words what this means," Damato said after his postgame jump into the pool with his players and coaching staff following the big win over Damien. "I would have belly-flopped into the pool for these guys. They are a great team."

On the football field, Laguna concluded a 3-7 season by scoring a wild, 49-39 win over Saddleback. Senior receiver Chris Paul caught five touchdown passes in the game and set a new Orange County record for career touchdown receptions (42), tied his own school record of five touchdown receptions in a game and set a school record for points (30) scored in a game. A few weeks later, Coach Jonathan Todd stepped down from his post and athletic director Mike Churchill was named as Todd's successor.

Laguna's girls' volleyball team held a 2-1 edge in games over top-ranked Marymount at Dugger Gym, but eventually fell in five games to the Sailors in the semifinals of the CIF Division 1A playoffs. Senior outside hitter Chanel Stewart and junior setter Allison Palmer both were named to the 2010 All-CIF SS Division 1A girls' volleyball team.

At the CIF SS Division 4 Cross-Country Championships at Mt. San Antonio College, the Laguna boys' team finished seventh in Division 4 and advanced to the CIF State Cross-Country Championships. Neev ran to a second-place finish in the boys' Division 4 final at Mt. SAC. At the State meet in Fresno, the Breakers placed seventh as a team and Neev claimed second place individually in the Division 4 race.

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