CORONA DEL MAR — Beating a senior-laden team like Laguna Beach High twice in a five-day span is tough.
Corona del Mar senior girls' water polo player Lauren Marks just wants to make her shot tough to ignore.
Marks did so in the fourth quarter Wednesday, scoring the game-winning goal crosscage with just over five minutes left as CdM took the nonleague game over the Breakers, 5-4, at CdM.
"I knew I had to step it up," said Marks, who scored twice after netting just one goal in CdM's first eight games. "I kind of find myself working better under pressure … A lot of teams tend to drop off me. If they're going to drop off me, I'm just going to show them that I can fire it in the corner."
Marks and fellow senior Devon Greenlee usually switch off starting for the Sea Kings (5-4). They made the most of the situation Wednesday as CdM was without senior Maddie Schwartz.
Coach Sam Bailey declined to say why Schwartz didn't play, although the San Diego State-bound captain sat in sweats on the bench with her team. But her absence in the pool meant the Sea Kings had to go to their bench early and often against the Breakers (7-2).
Marks wasn't the only senior to step up. Greenlee and Tori Gabert both had assists, Gabert's coming on a nice cross-pool pass to sophomore Ally McCormick. The goal helped the Sea Kings begin to rally from a 3-1 deficit, and they tied the score at 3-3 when another sub, sophomore Genevieve Weed, blasted a crosscage goal with 14 seconds left in the first half.
"Lauren really stepped up," said junior goalie Alex Musselman, who had another solid game herself with 14 saves. "And all the people on our bench stepped up. During this game, we had a lot of subs go in, and our bench is definitely getting a lot deeper. Subbing is not a problem anymore, because our subs definitely step up big."
Corona del Mar had to rally in the fourth quarter and overtime to top the Breakers, 5-4, in the semifinals of the Holiday Cup tournament Saturday. In Wednesday's game, the Sea Kings again fell behind early in the third quarter as the Breakers' Melena Masson scored at set.
But Marks' first goal, on the power play, tied the score at 4-4 with 1:41 left in the quarter. After giving CdM the lead, she turned to her forte – defense.
Three times late in the game, the Breakers brought different girls into set. Marks made nice defensive plays to deny shots to Laguna sophomore Sydney Saxe and junior Yoshi Andersen. When Masson went into set in the final minute, she finally drew an exclusion, and the Breakers had a chance to tie it up.
But good defense forced an outside shot from Andersen that went high, and the Sea Kings were able to run out the clock. After Laguna was four for six on the power-play in the Holiday Cup semifinal, on Wednesday the Breakers were scoreless in five player-advantage opportunities.
"It was something that we definitely wanted to try and control a little bit better," Bailey said.
The last-minute stop concluded a scrappy effort for CdM, with Diana Murphy fouling out in the fourth quarter and fellow junior Pippa Saunders played through illness. Cassidy Papa also had a goal and a steal for the Sea Kings.
Masson led the Breakers with a pair of goals.
Corona del Mar continues its difficult nonleague schedule when it plays host to Foothill on Friday. After that game, the Sea Kings will have played all of the top Division I teams at least once. The exception is Los Alamitos, which wasn't entered in the Holiday Cup.
The confident CdM players don't appear worried about the schedule, though.
"We're ready for it," Marks said. "Bring it on; bring on all the games. We'll be ready for everyone."