Goal No. 2 reached: check.
An old nemesis stood in the way of a Laguna Beach High girls’ water polo team that was one step away from achieving another milestone Saturday: win the Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions.
Laguna led the entire way in Saturday’s title match against Newport Harbor at Santa Barbara High. The Breakers opened up a 4-0 lead through one quarter and continued their defensive shutout in the second quarter, to open up a 6-0 halftime advantage, which led to an eventual, 9-5 victory.
The title comes on the heels of the Holiday Cup tournament championship the Breakers won Jan. 4. They won that title also by knocking off Newport Harbor, 11-8, in the final to win the event for the first time.
Winning the Holiday Cup was Goal No. 1 of the season for the Breakers, Coach Ethan Damato had said.
After taking the Tournament of Champions Saturday, Laguna, which started the tournament ranked No. 2, moved back to the top in this week’s Division 1 rankings.
Newport Harbor is ranked second.
“I thought the girls played better as the weekend went on and saved their best game for the final against Newport,” Damato said. “I am really proud of the team to be in the finals and win the Tournament of Champions in Santa Barbara. It’s such a competitive tournament with so many good teams. We definitely came home a happy team Saturday night.”
Junior Makenzie Fischer, the MVP of the tournament, led the scoring with five goals to go with an assist and four steals. Freshman Aria Fischer, an all-tourney team selection, and sophomores Haley Evans and Mia Salvini each scored once. Evans also had a team-high two assists, and Salvini and junior Taylor Julson each had three steals.
Sophomore goalie Holly Parker finished with four saves.
“The girls came out fired up in the first half and really buckled down defensively,” Damato said. “We limited their shots on cage and did a good job on controlling the tempo of the game.
“It was a great team effort, but I think we can play better, and more focused as a unit.”
Laguna also turned in an outstanding defensive performance Jan. 17 against Corona Santiago and shut out the Sharks, 19-0. The Breakers’ second tourney win was a 7-5 decision over Santa Margarita (No. 1, Division 2). In the semifinals Saturday, they beat San Clemente (No. 5, Division 2), 15-10.
Prior to starting the tournament, Laguna defeated host Dos Pueblos (No. 9, Division 1) Jan. 16, 11-4.
The Breakers returned to Orange Coast League play Wednesday and routed visiting Estancia, 24-1. Makenzie Fischer (five assists) and Aria Fischer both scored five goals, senior Cara Borkovec had four goals and sophomore Natalie Selin scored three times. Parker had five saves.
For the third time this season, Laguna and Newport Harbor will square off when the teams meet at 3 p.m. Friday in the Sailors’ pool.
“This summer and fall we played five or six times during preseason,” Damato said. “This will be our third game this season and with the way things are going, we could end up playing them four or five times before it’s all said and done.
“Newport is a great team and a great program. We expect a battle any time we get in the water with them. I don’t suspect Friday will be any different.”