Girls' Water Polo: Laguna advances to face Newport

The Laguna Beach girls' water polo team made it a 1-2-3 season sweep of Dos Pueblos of Goleta Wednesday.

The third meeting between the two teams in six weeks was the most important, a first-round game in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs. The outcome turned out to be another victory for the Breakers who kept their title hopes alive with a 9-8 win at home.

With the win, Orange Coast League champion Laguna advances to face Sunset League champ Newport Harbor in a division quarterfinal Saturday at 2 p.m. The No. 6-seeded Breakers play host to the No. 4-seeded Sailors, who defeated Canyon of Anaheim, 18-3, on Wednesday.

"I though that our seniors and our leading scorer, Makenzie Fischer, all really came ready to play," Laguna Coach Ethan Damato said. "Lexi [Del Toro] had five steals and two goals, Mackee [Baldridge] had two goals and four steals, and 'Fisch' (Fischer) guarded their best player [Jamie Neushul], drew three exclusions, scored three [goals] and had three huge field blocks. Sydney [Saxe] played her typical great defense, drew two exclusions, had a goal and an assist.

"They really set the tone early and every time the game got close, they found ways to make plays. In the fourth quarter we put freshman Holly Parker in the cage and she had four fourth-quarter saves to help us secure the win."

Laguna (19-9 overall) held a 5-4 halftime advantage, but the score was tied, 7-7, going into the fourth quarter.

"I'm very proud of the girls for getting a very tough win," Damato said. "We spoke before the game about being ready for any kind of a game and we were in a dog fight. It wasn't our best game or the prettiest win, but we are happy to still be playing. We could have complained about getting such a tough first-round matchup, Dos Pueblos was ranked seventh all year, but we met the challenge head on, and wouldn't be denied. "

Nine has been the lucky scoring number for Laguna in its three meetings with the Chargers: the Breakers also tallied nine in two, 9-6 wins earlier this season.

Laguna and Newport met late in the regular season at the Laguna pool. The Sailors won, 10-4, in that first meeting on Jan. 25.

The Newport-Laguna winner advances to the division semifinals at 6:45 p.m. Wednesday at the William Woollett Jr. Aquatics Center in Irvine.

"I've said it before and I'll say it again, Newport is the most disciplined team I have seen," Damato said. "On top of that, they play extremely well as a unit and have some great players we have to account for. We know that they are not going to beat themselves. If we want to win we will have to earn it and I think we are ready for the challenge. We have a really tough group that is going to fight like crazy for each other and I'm excited for the them to shine on Saturday."

In its regular season finale Feb. 8, Laguna rallied in the fourth quarter to slip past host El Toro, the fifth-ranked team in Division 2, 6-5. Saxe and Haley Evans both scored twice, Del Toro had a goal and two assists, and Jenna Knott had 12 saves.

Twitter: @MikeSciacca

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