High School Roundup: Laguna suffers setback

The Laguna Beach High boys' soccer team got the best of Saddleback when the teams met in an Orange Coast League opener on Jan. 9. On Tuesday in Santa Ana, the host Roadrunners returned the favor by blanking the visiting Breakers, 4-0.

The loss left Laguna 2-3-2 in league, and 7-3-4 overall. Saddleback improved to 4-2-1 in league and 12-3-3 overall.

"We are very disappointed with this game, not only because of the result, but also at how we responded when we went a couple of goals behind," Laguna Coach Dan Richards said. "The first half wasn't a great game but was pretty even and apart from the goal we conceded from a set piece and the shot we had saved off the line, neither team had many other clear opportunities."

Laguna, which upended Saddleback, then ranked third in CIF Southern Section Division 5, 3-0, when the teams met in the first round of league play, trailed by only 1-0 at the break.

"At halftime we spoke about a couple of changes and made an adjustment to the formation as we knew we had to push numbers forward to try and get an equalizer," Richards said. "The first 10 minutes, the boys did a lot better of what was asked. They had a few good chances, the [Saddleback] keeper had to make a couple saves, and we hit the cross bar.

"When we got hit on the break and they scored their second goal, though, it really deflated us and we never really got going again afterward. It was always likely we could concede more goals after that point when chasing the game."

Laguna previously had played visiting Estancia to a 3-3 draw on Jan. 25. Reece Barton, Willy Wheeler and Jake Hexberg scored for the Breakers.

"The lads did very well in the first half and really took it to Estancia," Richards said. "They followed the game plan perfectly and made it very hard for Estancia to find their rhythm. [Jake] Hexberg, getting such an early goal, helped the team build confidence especially as we were limited to so few attempts in the first meeting. Willy [Wheeler], grabbing a second goal before halftime was well deserved and he did a great job following up after the save from the keeper."

"Despite Reece [Barton] scoring an excellent goal in the second half, we were really penned in for the majority of the second period. Estancia put us under a lot of pressure and never gave up. We started to fatigue badly and were just unable to hold out against the onslaught."

In the first meeting between the teams on Jan. 11, Estancia scored a 1-0 win over the Breakers.

"We definitely did a much better job against Estancia this time around, however, their class told and they showed why they are such a talented team," Richards said of the Eagles. "At this late stage in the season, you can see how hard it is for the boys both physically and mentally, having big, important games coming so quick and fast."

Laguna completes its league and regular-season schedules in the coming week, starting with a 3:15 p.m. game Friday against league-leading Godinez at Centennial Park in Santa Ana. The Breakers return to Centennial Park Tuesday for a 3:15 p.m. game against Calvary Chapel, and play host to Costa Mesa at 6:30 p.m. Thursday.

"Godinez has a great program and traveling away to their field to play them will be a great challenge," Richards said of Friday's match. "We always know what to expect when we play them and there is a good reason why they are currently top of the league.

"With only three games left, it is going to take a huge effort by the players if they want to get to the [CIF] playoffs. Three wins would probably ensure it and is what we are looking to get. Two wins would maybe give us an outside chance, however, we want to keep it in our own hands and not have to rely on other results."


Girls' Soccer

The Breakers turned in strong performances against both Estancia and Saddleback in the past week, and played to tie scores on both occasions in Orange Coast League action.

Laguna played at Godinez Thursday but the score wasn't available at press time.

The Breakers on Tuesday went to Saddleback and rallied for a 2-2 tie against the Roadrunners. Johana Abarca scored Laguna' first goal off an assist from Amy Hewlett, and Audrey Pillsbury scored the tying goal on a solo shot from 30 yards out. The goals completed a comeback from a 2-0 deficit in the second half by the Breakers.

The outcome put Laguna at 1-3-3 in league. The Breakers, who have lost each of their three league matches by a single goal, are 1-0-2 in their last three league outings.

Laguna also rallied in its previous league game Jan. 24 to earn a 1-1 tie against visiting Estancia at Guyer Field. The Breakers scored the equalizing goal in the 80th minute to complete the scoring. The tying goal came on a crucial, free-kick from 45 yards out. Sarah Hewlett placed the long delivery behind the Estancia defensive line and a streaking Katelyn Carballo jumped to reach the ball, and then planted a header into the upper corner.

Coach Bill Rolfing called the ending to the game a "very gratifying finish."

The Breakers conclude their league and regular season next week with a pair of games. They travel to Centennial Park in Santa Ana Monday for a 3:15 p.m. game with Calvary Chapel. They play at home at 5 p.m. Wednesday against Costa Mesa.


Girls' Water Polo

Laguna currently is playing at the Irvine Southern California Women's Water Polo Championships. The three-day tournament started Thursday, continues Friday and concludes Saturday, and is being held at three pool sites.

Thirty-two teams, divided into four pool-play groupings, are competing for the title. Eighteen of the 32 teams are currently ranked in CIF Southern Section top-10 polls including the No. 1 teams in Division 1 (Foothill and Santa Barbara), Division 2 (Santa Margarita) and Division 3 (Harvard Westlake).

Scores from Laguna's first two tournament games Thursday weren't available at press time. The Breakers are the No. 2 seed in the Irvine Comp Pool bracket.

Games run between 3 and 8 p.m. Friday at each pool site. Saturday's placement games will be held at the Irvine Comp and Irvine Dive pools starting at noon. The event culminates with the championship game at 3:15 p.m. at the Comp Pool.

Foothill Pool: Foothill, El Toro, Montebello, San Marcos, Coronado, Villa Park, Fountain Valley, Laguna Hills.

Irvine Comp Pool: Santa Barbara, Laguna Beach, Murietta Valley, Cathedral Catholic, Long Beach Wilson, Irvine, Esperanza, Long Beach Poly.

Irvine Dive Pool: Newport Harbor, Santa Margarita, Agoura, Carlsbad, Harvard Westlake, Arroyo Grande, Canyon, Long Beach Millikan.

Corona del Mar Pool: Corona del Mar, Los Alamitos, Dos Pueblos, Edison, Mira Costa, Warren, Vista/San Diego, Cabrillo.

"I am very excited for the weekend, as it's our last chance to improve as a team before entering the [CIF] playoffs," Laguna Coach Ethan Damato said. "It will also be a great measuring point as to where we are at this point of the season.

"As a team, we have been battling health issues and finals for the last two weeks. I'm hoping we stay healthy and continue to get better together. It's my final tournament with these seniors and I want to have a great tournament for them."

In a nonleague game Jan. 25 between two teams ranked in Division 1, host Laguna, ranked sixth, suffered a 10-4 loss to No. 3 Newport Harbor. The Sailors took a 6-1 halftime lead to control the game early.

Makenzie Fischer scored two goals to lead the Breakers.

"I thought Newport exposed a lot of things that most teams have not against us so far," Damato said. "They played extremely well as a unit, put their opportunities away and we did not. We need to play much better if we plan on beating teams of that caliber. We know we are capable and we will bounce back."

The Breakers close out their regular season next week. They end Orange Coast League play with a 3:15 p.m. home game Wednesday against Godinez. They travel Feb. 8 for a 3:30 p.m. nonleague game at El Toro.

The CIF Southern Section playoffs start Feb. 13.


CIF Southern Section Weekly Rankings

Girls' Water Polo: Laguna Beach (No. 6, Division 1).


Twitter: @MikeSciacca

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