Laguna breezes to opening victory

The Laguna Beach girls' water polo team came into Wednesday's CIF Southern Section Division 1 first-round game as strong favorites against Beckman. Throughout the game, the third-ranked Breakers played the part with relish and, in the end, came away with a 23-9 victory over the visiting Patriots.

The victory sends the Orange Coast League champions on to Saturday's quarterfinals. Laguna will host seventh-ranked Santa Barbara at 4 p.m. at the Laguna pool, Breakers Coach Ethan Damato said.

The Dons defeated Edison, 10-3, in a first-round game Wednesday.

"I thought it was a good win today and I thought we played well offensively," Damato said. "I thought we shared the ball really well and we played great early, especially in the second quarter. But we had some defensive lapses, which we can work on.

"It was Senior Day for us and maybe, we were a little emotional out there. But the bottom line, we played a great first half."

Laguna (22-6) never trailed but it took a while for the Breakers to get going. They posted their first goal when Lexie Del Toro scored off a feed from freshman Makenzie Fischer 2:20 into the contest. Senior co-captain Yoshi Andersen came up with a steal a minute later and scored at the other end of the pool to make it 2-0. Forty seconds later, Mackenzie Baldridge gave up an open shot for an unselfish dish to Del Toro, who scored for the second time. Before the quarter was up, Fischer scored and Laguna was off and running at 4-0.

The Breakers never looked back. After Beckman's Rachel Emami scored the first of her four goals of the game, Del Toro and Andersen both scored twice to pad the lead to 8-1. Late in the half, Andersen scored on a sweet back-handed shot, Del Toro skipped in a one-bounce shot and Fischer scored off a steal by Del Toro.

Andersen and Del Toro had five goals by halftime, where the Breakers held an 11-2 advantage.

"We moved the around really well and found some good, quality, open shots," Damato said. "I was real pleased with our ball movement in the first half."

Fischer scored the first two goals of the second half and goals by Sydney Saxe and co-captain Melena Masson followed. Within the first three minutes of the third quarter, Laguna increased its lead to 16-2. The Breakers led, 18-3, heading into the fourth quarter.

Damato substituted freely in the second half. Beckman (20-9), which finished second in the Pacific Coast League to Corona del Mar, was able to outscore the Breakers, 6-5, in the final quarter. The Patriots had defeated Esperanza, 9-3, in a wild card game on Tuesday to advance to face Laguna.

Fischer finished with a game-high six goals and had two assists, Andersen tallied five goals, five assists and four steals, Del Toro had five goals and an assist, Masson added four goals, five assists and two steals, and Saxe scored twice and had three assists. Jenna Knott had six saves.

The Laguna underclassmen honored their three senior players — Andersen, Masson and Marley Donenfeld — after the victory.

"They have led this team," Damato said of the senior trio. "I think we're playing for Yoshi, Melena and Marley these last couple of games. That's been our motto."

Saturday's quarterfinal match has the makings of a good one, as Laguna and Santa Barbara are no strangers to each other this year. The teams played twice during the regular season and the Dons have won both games: a 4-3 nonleague game in December and an 11-7 game at the Santa Barbara tournament in January.

"We're excited to be playing them," Damato said. "They are a deep team that swims really well and they have seven or eight field players who can beat you. We just need to be ourselves in the game and come out fast. One thing we need to do for sure is play better defense. Our defense has to be at its best from here on out."

Twitter: @MikeSciacca

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