Girls' Water Polo: Breakers begin league title run

An early call Wednesday turned out to reap several rewards for the Laguna Beach High girls' water polo team.

On a day that began at 5:45 a.m. with a not-so-normal practice session, the Breakers still had plenty of energy nine hours later, when they traveled to face Costa Mesa. Despite a somewhat slow start to the Orange Coast League opener for both teams, the Breakers shifted gears and went on several scoring runs that led to an eventual, 22-7 victory.

Laguna has not lost an OCL game since the league formed for athletic competition for the 2006-07 school year.

The Breakers, ranked No. 6 in CIF Southern Section Division 1, improved to 8-3 overall.

"I thought we were a little bit sluggish at the start of the game, but the girls picked things up after the first quarter," Laguna Coach Ethan Damato said. "We had that early practice to work on some six-on-five situations and shooting, plus, we were using a different defense in this game and we got to test it out and get the kinks out."

Laguna, a pressing team defensively, played an "M-drop" (zone) defense in the first half. The Breakers led, 6-2, after one quarter, but began to pull away when Makenzie Fischer scored consecutive goals, followed by two straight scores from Lexi Del Toro to start the second quarter.

The Breakers held an 11-4 halftime lead. Costa Mesa (12-8) scored two of its goals in the half in the final seconds of each quarter.

Laguna scored the first four goals of the second half, one each from Sydney Saxe and Macky Baldridge and two from Fischer, one coming on a penalty shot, to expand the lead to 15-4.

Fischer finished with eight goals and five assists. Del Toro scored three goals and had two assists, Baldridge scored three times and Saxe and Natalie Seling both scored twice. Goalies Holly Parker and Jenna Knott had 10 and three saves, respectively.

The Breakers headed north Thursday to Santa Barbara for a series of games starting with a Thursday nonleague game against seventh-ranked Dos Pueblos. The score wasn't available at press time.

Laguna will start play Friday at the two-day Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions, annually one of the top girls' water polo events of the prep season. The 16-team, two-day tourney will be played at both Santa Barbara and Dos Pueblos.

Fifteen of the 16 teams in the tournament are ranked in either the CIF Southern Section Division 1 or 2 polls. Foothill, the No. 1-ranked team in Division 1, and Mater Dei, ranked No. 1 in Division 2, are included in the field and are two of the four teams in Laguna's pool bracket.

Laguna scored a 9-8 nonleague victory on Dec. 14 at Mater Dei.

Pool-play games start Friday. Tournament action continues at 9 a.m. Saturday. The seventh-, fifth- and third-place games, and championship game, will be played at Santa Barbara High starting at 1:20 p.m. The 15th- through ninth-place games will be played at Dos Pueblos High, also starting at 1:20 p.m.

In its last tournament appearance in late-December, the Breakers finished sixth at the Newport Harbor-Corona del Mar Holiday Cup. Foothill won the tournament title.

"We'll see most of the same teams that played in the Holiday Cup, and we get to player Mater Dei first," Damato said. "We beat them the first time we played but they didn't have their second-leading scorer [Brianna Daboub] in that game. She's back in their lineup, and I expect this to be a tough game. We're in a very tough [pool]."

Laguna resumes league play at 3:15 p.m. on Wednesday , when it plays host to Saddleback. The Breakers face a stiff nonleague challenge on Jan. 18 at Foothill.


Tournament of Champions

Pool A: Foothill (No. 1, Div. 1); Laguna Beach (No. 6, Div. 1); Mater Dei (No. 1, Div. 2); San Clemente (No. 9, Div. 2).

Pool B: Los Alamitos (No. 5, Div. 1); Santa Margarita (No. 3, Div. 2); Montebello (No. 4, Div. 2); Dos Pueblos (No. 7, Div. 1).

Pool C: Corona del Mar (No. 4, Div. 1); Newport Harbor (No. 3, Div. 1); Santiago/Corona (No. 5, Div. 2); Rosary.

Pool D: El Toro (No. 2, Div. 2); Santa Barbara (No. 2, Div. 1); Murrieta Valley (No. 7, Div. 2); Agoura (No. 6, Div. 2).

Friday's schedule

(at Santa Barbara High)

12:30 p.m.: Santa Barbara vs. Murrieta Valley

1:30 p.m.: El Toro vs. Agoura

2:30 p.m.: Laguna Beach vs. Mater Dei

3:30 p.m.: Foothill vs. San Clemente

(at Dos Pueblos High)

12:30 p.m.: Los Alamitos vs. Dos Pueblos

1:30 p.m.: Santa Margarita vs. Montebello

2:30 p.m.: Newport Harbor vs. Santiago/Corona

3:30 p.m.: Corona del Mar vs. Rosary

(Note: teams will play two games on Friday).

Twitter: @MikeSciacca

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