Laguna Beach High girls' water polo coach Ethan Damato had said that if the Breakers were to develop into a team that knows how to win the close games, it would have to learn how to finish.
Tuesday at the Ocean View High Aquatics Center in Huntington Beach, the young Breakers took the first step in that development.
Sixth-ranked Laguna trailed early against No. 9 Edison in an early-season matchup between teams ranked in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 poll. The Breakers rallied to take the lead by halftime, then withstood a third-quarter rally by the Chargers. They scored the final two goals of the nonleague game to come away with a 10-8 victory.
"The girls made some great defensive stops and had some big counterattacks, to finish," said Damato whose team, in its previous game, couldn't finish in a 9-8 loss at Santiago of Corona on Dec. 5. "I thought we did a good job, overall, but we still need to work on playing more consistent throughout the entire match."
The Breakers (2-1) got off to a slow start and trailed Edison, 3-2, after one quarter. They picked up the pace, both offensively and defensively, in the second quarter where they shut out the Chargers and went into halftime with a 5-3 lead.
Edison (3-5) rallied to tie the score at 5-5 in the early stages of the third quarter, and the teams were dead-locked one final time at 8-8 with 1:27 remaining in the game. Brighid Burnes, who led all scorers with six goals, scored her final goal on a skip shot. The go-ahead and winning score came with the Breakers in a six-on-five advantage and with 48.6 seconds left.
Thirteen seconds later, Mackenzie Baldridge came up with a steal near mid-pool, fed Lexi Del Toro, and Del Toro then sprinted the rest of the way and sent a shot into the right corner of the Edison goal. The score put the Breakers up, 10-8, with 27.8 seconds to play.
Jenna Knott, who played in the Laguna cage the second half of the game, blocked a shot attempt by Edison's leading scorer, Sabrina Jensen (three goals), with seven seconds left.
Freshman Holly Parker, in her first varsity minutes, played in goal in the first half for Laguna.
"I thought Holly did a great job. She's very talented," Damato said. "Jenna had some nice stops there at the end for us."
Laguna travels Friday to take on Mater Dei in a 4 p.m. nonleague game. Next week, the Breakers play host to San Clemente in a 4 p.m. nonleague game on Wednesday.
The Breakers displayed speed and solid teamwork in scoring a 1-0 nonleague victory Dec. 6 over visiting Ocean View at Guyer Field.
Audrey Pillsbury scored an early solo goal that turned out to be the game-winning score. Ocean View's offense was thwarted time and again by a defense led by Laguna senior team captain, Sarah Hewlett, sophomore goalie Kylie George, and Amy Hewlett, Tessa Hopper, Chiara Noppenberger and Senna Thomas. Janie Crawford and Summer Stanaland made key contributions at midfield.
"It was a great win against a top area team," Laguna Coach Bill Rolfing said.
In their final game Saturday at the Ocean View Holiday Tournament, Laguna fell, 2-0, to Valencia of Placentia. George recorded 10 saves and turned away a penalty kick by the Tigers. Rolfing said his team, which now has its entire lineup intact, got "excellent experience" out of the tournament.
Laguna, 2-3-1 overall, returns to play Tuesday, hosting Irvine at 6:15 p.m. at Guyer Field. The Breakers also play a nonleague game at 4:45 p.m. next Thursday at San Juan Hills.
In their second match of season, the Breakers and host Tesoro battled to a scoreless tie on Dec. 7.
The outcome left Laguna with a 1-0-1 record. The Breakers defeated Dana Hills in their opener on Nov. 30.
"Despite getting a tie and a shutout, the team is disappointed with its overall performance," Laguna Coach Daniel Richards said. "We really didn't get going in the first half and found it hard to get a foothold in the game."The fact that the boys were disappointed in only getting a tie on the road at a school as big as Tesoro, is a great sign. We know as a team that we have the talent and ability to compete with these types of schools as long as we get it right on the day.
"As the players get more games under their belts together, their understanding of each other's movement will increase and so will our level of consistency."
The Breakers are back in action Friday, hosting Saddleback Valley Christian at 4:45 p.m. at Guyer Field. They also have two home nonleague games next week starting with a 6:30 p.m. match Monday with Trabuco Hills. They host Oxford Academy of Cypress at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday.
CIF Weekly Rankings
Boys' basketball (preseason ranking): Laguna (No. 13, Division 4AA)
Girls' basketball (preseason ranking): Laguna (tie-No. 16, Division 4A)
Girls' water polo: Laguna (No. 6, Division 1)