Breakers boys' polo off to hot start

Going into the season, the Laguna Beach High boys' water polo team knew what lay ahead of them in the first week.

An unforgiving early schedule had them facing two ranked opponents right off the bat, then heading north to face more stiff competition.

That's just what Laguna Coach Ethan Damato wants for his team, which is to be tested.

The Breakers opened their season Sept.13 and scored a 13-6 victory over visiting Villa Park. Tuesday at Laguna, they held off Claremont, 10-6.

At 2-0, Laguna, ranked No. 4 in CIF Southern Section Division 2, is now in Santa Barbara. First, the Breakers took on Santa Barbara in a nonleague game Thursday (the score wasn't available at press time). They begin play Friday at the third annual Santa Barbara Invitational, which runs through Saturday.

Damato said his team looked "tight" in the opening quarter of their opening game. Villa Park, which started the season ranked sixth in Division 2, was able to take a 3-2 lead after one quarter but the Breakers outscored the Spartans, 5-1, in the second quarter to take a 7-4 lead at the half.

The Breakers again outscored the Spartans by a 5-1 margin in the third quarter, to open up an 11-5 advantage.

Jack Dodson scored a game-high five goals with six steals for Laguna. Aki Andersen, Jakob Colladay and Trevor Collins (two steals), each scored twice. Cade Baldridge scored once and had three steals.

Garret Hartley had 10 saves.

"I thought we looked nervous and tight in the first quarter," Damato said. "After the first [quarter], we controlled every aspect of the game. Pressed well, played fast and never looked back. Jack Dodson took the game over in the second half and the guys really fed off that energy.

"Overall, I was pleased for the first game of the season. We have a lot of things to work on but that's what we want to find out at this point of the year."

Laguna faced a Claremont team that entered Tuesday's game ranked ninth in Division 2. The Breakers jumped out to a 4-1 lead and led 5-1 at the break, but the Wolfpack outplayed the Breakers in the third quarter and fought back to tie the score.

The teams went into the fourth quarter deadlocked at 6-6. Laguna pulled away by scoring the final four goals of the match.

Andersen, Baldridge and Dodson each scored twice. Hartley had 13 saves.

"Claremont was a tough team that would not stop fighting," Damato said. "I thought we had a lot of chances to break the game open in the first two periods but instead, they kept it close. I thought their goalie played very well and that was a big reason they were able to weather the storm in the first half. The third quarter was the ugliest quarter we have had yet. The good thing was it really challenged us and put our backs against the wall in the fourth [quarter]. We fought through it and scrapped out the win.

"Overall, we know we need to shoot the ball better, put our opportunities away and that game would have been a different story. Either way it was a good test and we are excited for the coming weekend."

The 16-team Santa Barbara Invitational starts Friday with pool-play games beginning at noon at both the high school pools at Santa Barbara and Dos Pueblos. Laguna is the second seed in Pool A, behind Mater Dei. The Breakers open against Dos Pueblos at 2 p.m., at Dos Pueblos.

The Breakers also will play a second pool match Friday at either 6 p.m. or 7 p.m., also at Dos Pueblos.

Pool A: Mater Dei, Laguna Beach, Dos Pueblos, St, Francis.

Pool B: Harvard-Westlake, Sacred Heart, Newport Harbor, Santa Barbara.

Pool C: Cathedral Catholic, Murrieta Valley, Loyola, Acalanes.

Pool D: Agoura, Dana Hills, Los Osos, Miramonte.

Ten of the 16 teams are ranked in the top six in their respective divisions in the CIF Southern Section polls. The field includes three No. 1-ranked teams: Mater Dei (Division 1), Agoura (Division 2) and Los Osos (Division 4).

"This is the toughest field I have seen yet at the Santa Barbara Invite," Damato said. "We are extremely excited to be a part of the tournament and excited for the challenges this field of teams presents. At the end of Saturday we will have a good idea of where we are as a team and what we need to do to get better moving forward, win or lose.

"Everything at this point of the year is training. We want to win every game but want to be focused on improving every day no matter what the result."

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