Boys' Water Polo Preview: Breakers reload amid unknown outlook

A hunger. An unknown.

One the Laguna Beach High boys' water polo team possesses, the other, is how the Breakers might appear to their 2013 opponents.

So says Laguna Coach Ethan Damato, who begins his seventh year with the program, the last six as head coach. He starts the new season with plenty of depth and talent on a team that annually takes its hits on talent lost to graduation, but one that continually reloads.

That reloading is needed: gone to graduation in June were five players who last year attained All-Orange Coast League and All-CIF Southern Section Division 2 status.

"I'm really excited about the upcoming season and this group of guys," said Damato, who seven years ago served as co-head coach of the program before taking over as solo head coach. "They are a hungry group and I think they will play with a chip on their shoulder as I don't think the rest of the division knows how good we can be.

"If we can play disciplined and improve all season long, I think we will be in the mix come playoff time. Our goal as a team will be to win league and play for a CIF championship."

Since the inception of the Orange Coast League, Laguna has ruled the coop. The Breakers have won seven consecutive league championships.

Laguna last year again went undefeated in OCL play and then beat Claremont and Murrieta Valley in the CIF Division 2 playoffs. The Breakers bowed out of title contention in their first year in the division following a 9-7 semifinal loss to Santa Barbara.

The teams again met Sept. 19 when Laguna travels to Santa Barbara.

Back from last year's semifinals team are three starters: utility player Jack Dodson, driver Cade Baldridge, and defender/driver Aki Andersen, all juniors. Also returning and joining this year's starting lineup are key players, senior driver Trevor Collins and junior driver Nolan Del Toro both of whom saw plenty of playing time last year.

The Breakers start preseason workouts Monday and begin their season Sept. 13 at home against Villa Park.

The Breakers

Head Coach: Ethan Damato (seventh year)

Coaching staff: Trevor Lyle (head JV coach); Pierre Masson (head frosh/soph coach, JV assistant); Chris Stansbury (strength trainer).

2012 records: 21-10 overall; 5-0 league (champion)

CIF results: Semifinal round Division 2

Returning starters: Jack Dodson (utility, Jr.); Cade Baldridge (driver, Jr.); Aki Andersen (defender/driver, Jr.).

Key returnees: Trevor Collins (driver, Sr.); Nolan Del Toro (driver, Jr.)

Returning with honors: Jack Dodson (first team all-league).

Key losses: Riley Thomas (2012 league MVP, All-CIF, Air Force); Maxx McCarter (all-league, All-CIF, Cal); Camron Hauer (all-league, All-CIF, Cal Lutheran); Duncan Lynde (all-league, All-CIF, Long Beach St.); Caleb Scott (all-league, All-CIF, Pepperdine).

Coach's comments: "We have a very deep team and will have the luxury of playing 10, 11, 12 guys every game," Damato said. "We have great speed, quickness and have a very fundamentally sound team. We play team defense well and when we play unselfishly we are really fun to watch.

"These guys know the game well and have been playing for a long time. Whether they played a lot last year or not they have a lot of experience as a group."

The opposition: Another tough schedule awaits the Breakers who don't shy away from tough nonleague competition. They play in three tournaments, Santa Barbara, South Coast-Newport Harbor, and Steve Pal Memorial, the first two on back-to-back weekends in late-September. Among the nonleague games, the Breakers open against Villa Park and play two teams, Claremont and Murrieta Valley, who they conquered in the CIF playoffs last year.

"As we do every year, we have loaded our nonleague schedule with some of the best teams in our division and some other great non-divisional games that will help prepare for the challenges of CIF," Damato said. "Our tournament schedule is tough and we should have plenty of battles and tests leading up to the playoffs."

2013 Schedule

Sept. 3: at Foothill (scrimmage), TBA

Sept. 13: Villa Park, 4 p.m.

Sept. 17: Claremont, 4 p.m.

Sept. 19: at Santa Barbara, 5:30 p.m.

Sept. 20-21: at Santa Barbara Tournament

Sept. 26-28: at South Coast-Newport Harbor Tournament

Oct. 1.: at Dana Hills, 4 p.m

Oct. 8: at Foothill, 4 p.m.

Oct. 9: at *Saddleback, 3:15 p.m.

Oct. 16: vs. *Sage Hill, TBA

Oct. 17: at Murrieta Valley, 4:15 p.m.

Oct. 18: Coronado, 4 p.m.

Oct. 23: *Estancia, 3:15 p.m.

Oct. 30: vs. *Godinez (Santa Ana Valley High), 3:15 p.m.

Nov. 1-2: at Steve Pal Memorial Tournament

Nov. 5: El Toro, 4 p.m.

Nov. 6: *Costa Mesa, 3:15 p.m.

(*denotes league game)

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