A near-three week layoff did little to deter the Laguna Beach High boys' soccer team, which returned to action Wednesday at Guyer Field.
In fact, in playing their first game since Dec. 20, the Breakers ran up their highest goal total and produced their widest margin of victory of the season when they shut down visiting Saddleback Valley Christian, 5-0, in nonleague play.
The game marked the end of the nonleague season for Laguna, which improved to 3-4-3 overall. The Breakers next week head into Orange Coast League play and start their quest for a league title and return trip to the CIF playoffs Wednesday at Saddleback.
"This was a good confidence builder and a great way to return to the field after a long holiday break from games," Laguna Coach Dan Richards said. "Although it wasn't a perfect display, the boys did a good job and at times connected very well."
Rory Saunders, Zach Jacobs, Willy Wheeler, Edward Willette and Jake Hexberg scored goals for the Breakers, who led, 2-0, at the half.
"We got off to a great start with Rory's goal," Richard said of Saunders' score, which came after the senior won the ball in Laguna's defensive third before driving forward and continued his run before calmly planting the ball into the goal.
"Zach Jacobs was strong throughout the game in the center of midfield and took his chance very well," Richards said. "Willy's header and Hexberg's finish were both extremely well taken, and Eddie [Willette] did a good job following up and pressuring to get his goal.
"Despite scoring five [goals], we still missed some very good opportunities and will need to be a little more prolific in front of the goal come league play. Overall, the team did well controlling the tempo for most of the game from strong performances by our midfielders and outside backs, pushing up the field, especially in the second half."
In addition to their 3 p.m. league opener next Wednesday at Saddleback, the Breakers open their league home schedule Jan. 17, hosting Estancia at 6:30 p.m. at Guyer Field.
Godinez won the OCL title a year ago. Saddleback finished second, and Estancia was third.
Laguna qualified for the playoffs last year as an at-large team from the OCL.
"We are looking forward to the start of league season and know opening up against the CIF (Division 5) champions (Saddleback) away from home will obviously not be easy," Richards said. "For us to be successful this season, we will need to keep our composure and play to our strengths consistently. There are some talented players on our young squad and we need them to work hard and understand our system fully if we want to succeed.
"We had some tough games through our nonleague schedule both with regards to our opponents and from our own doing. I think the team has learned a lot from these games and will need to remember these lessons moving forward."
The Breakers won their fourth game of the season Tuesday when they went to Woodbridge and blanked the host Warriors, 1-0. Junior midfielder Audrey Pillsbury scored unassisted in the 25th minute. Junior goalie Kylie George had 10 saves which included two coming on "spectacular dives" in the game's final 10 minutes, Coach Bill Rolfing said.
"We are playing solid defense, but still looking for the right chemistry up top," Rolfing said. "The transitional game is progressing, but now, the scoring must begin.
We are pleased to have the two pre-league matches this week to finalize our match plans before the OCL opener next Tuesday."
Laguna, which improved to 4-4-2 overall following Tuesday's win, played host to Ocean View Thursday . The score from the game, the Breakers' final nonleague game of the season, wasn't available at press time.
The Breakers start Orange Coast League play at 3:15 p.m. Tuesday at Saddleback. They play host to Estancia at 5 p.m. Thursday.
Estancia is the defending OCL champion. Saddleback was runner-up to the title, and Laguna was the third-place team from the OCL in the CIF playoffs last year.
The girls' soccer program held its alumni match Saturday at Guyer Field. The alumni team defeated the current varsity squad, 2-0.
The alumni team scored a goal in both halves, and went on to win the game for the first time in eight years. Rolfing said that several, key varsity players, "sat out" the match.
Among the alumni playing in the game were four former Breakers, who have returned to coach in the Laguna girls' soccer program: Laura Yale (Class of 2005) and Nicole Lengacher (2004) who have coached in the frosh/soph program, and Courtney Hamchuk (2005) and Lura Hills (2009) who currently are on the varsity and frosh/soph coaching staffs, respectively.
Laguna alumni players have gone on to collegiate careers. Rolfing said that universities and colleges represented on the field at the 2014 alumni game were Bucknell, Azusa Pacific, Colorado College, Lesley University, Saddleback and San Francisco State, as well as Georgetown, Emory, Centenary, Redlands, Orange Coast, UC San Diego, UC Santa Barbara, and the University of Chicago.
CIF Weekly Rankings
Girls' Water Polo: Laguna Beach (No. 1, Division 1)
Note: the first regular season rankings for boys' and girls' basketball will be released next Monday.