A start to remember

Editor's note: The Coastline Pilot looks back on the 2011-2012 high school season. Below is the first of two parts and focuses on events from September through December. The second part will appear in the June 29 issue.


The 2011-12 sports season at Laguna Beach High opened with a bang. Records were set, league titles and a repeat CIF championship were won and one team — football — reached unprecedented heights.

In football, the Breakers became just the third Laguna team to win 10 games in a season. The last Laguna team to accomplish the feat was the 10-2 1987 squad. They also became the first Laguna team since 1964 to reach the CIF semifinals.

The Breakers, who finished third in the Orange Coast League, lost in the Southern Division semifinals in November to second-ranked Corona del Mar, which went on to win the division title. In the postseason, the Breakers walloped Anaheim, 49-13, and outlasted third-ranked Segerstrom 51-40, to become the third Laguna team in school history to win two CIF games. The 1946 and 1962 teams also won two postseason games.

Senior Norton Penney, junior Drake Martinez, junior Larry Stewart and junior Spencer Anderson, were named first-team all-league.

"The kids had a real good year," Laguna Coach Mike Churchill said. "I think the early success we had helped the kids build on that."

In girls' volleyball, the third-ranked Breakers won another undefeated Orange Coast League championship and reached the semifinals of the Division 1-A playoffs. There, they were eliminated by second-ranked Corona del Mar. Senior setter Allison Palmer, who will play at Arizona State, and freshman outside hitter Alyse Wallace-Ford were named All-CIF.

Palmer also was named the 2011 Orange Coast League Most Valuable Player. Wallace-Ford and seniors Caroline Holte and Marina Paul were named first-team all-league.

Lance Stewart, who coaches both girls' and boys' volleyball at Laguna, stepped down as boys' head coach in early December. He was replaced by Scott Panaro.

In cross-country, the Laguna girls' team realized a season-long dream by reaching the CIF State Cross-Country Championships in late-November at Woodward Park in Fresno. The Breakers entered the meet ranked sixth in Division 4 and finished sixth at State. Individually, senior Natasha Strickland was Laguna's top finisher in 16th place. Strickland was named Female Runner of the Year for the 2011 Orange Coast League girls' cross-country season.

The Laguna boys' team finished in 14th place at the CIF Southern Section Division 4 meet at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut in November. The Breakers were represented on the all-league team by senior Jeff White.

In girls' tennis, the Breakers again won the league title, dominated the league tournament and reached the CIF playoffs under first-year Coach Don Davis. Senior Lauren Michaels won the league's singles title and was named league MVP. In doubles, the teams of freshman Kira Hamilton and sophomore Brooke Michaels won the league tournament title.

In girls' golf, the Breakers finished second to Estancia in the Orange Coast League and had three players named to the 2011 all-league team. Senior captain Taylor Weiss was a first-team player who finished runner-up to league MVP Cassie Stevenson of Estancia for the league's individual title. Niko Morok of Laguna was fifth at the league tournament and also made first team. Vivian Mendoza was eighth at league finals and made the second team.

The 2011 sports year ended on a high note for Laguna, which repeated as CIF Southern Section Division 3 champion in boys' water polo. Coach Ethan Damato's squad went wire-to-wire as the No. 1-ranked team for the season and capped its outstanding campaign in November by defeating second-ranked Damien, 14-8, for the second straight year in the division final.

"This is awesome," Damato said of capturing another Southern Section title. "I think the pressure has been on this team all year and our guys have responded so well to every challenge. This (title) is something we've been wanting all year. What really impressed me was that this entire team stepped up big when we lost two key starters. That says a lot about our guys."

Senior Nolan McConnell was named Division 3 Player of the Year and Damato was the division's Coach of the Year. Seniors Erik Henrikson (goalie) and Samer Alkateb, and junior Riley Thomas were named first-team All-CIF. Senior Tommy Renner and junior Camron Hauer were named second-team All-CIF and senior Nicky Brunner was third-team All-CIF.


Twitter: @MikeSciacca

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