Breakers' title hopes stay alive

Needing a strong close to the first half of Orange Coast League play, the Laguna Beach High boys' soccer team accomplished just that by turning in a pair of big performances to keep its title hopes alive.

The Breakers earned their third OCL victory Wednesday and closed out the opening round of league action by taking a 4-2 victory from visiting Costa Mesa at Guyer Field. The Breakers scored the final three goals of the opening half to take a 3-1 lead at the break and went on to run their league record to 3-1-1, and went above .500 for the season at 6-5-2.

The performance followed a scoreless tie the Breakers played top-ranked Godinez to Jan. 24.

"We played some very good stuff [Wednesday], controlling the majority of the game and deserved the victory," Laguna Coach Dan Richards said. "Apart from a couple of sloppy mistakes on our end, Costa Mesa had trouble creating chances against us and we looked a threat whenever we went forward.

"It was great to see us create some very good goal scoring opportunities throughout the encounter and we really should have been more clinical to put the game to bed more comfortably."

After falling behind, 1-0, the Breakers drew even on a goal by sophomore Eddie Willette. They went in front for good when junior Willy Wheeler scored, a goal set up by the field work of senior Chris Tellez, and extended their lead to 3-1 on junior Harrison Gregory's goal.

Junior Tommy Ressler scored in the second half for Laguna which had missed out on a few scoring opportunities in the second half that could have further extended the lead.

"This was a great result for the boys and puts them firmly in the title race at the halfway stage of league," Richards said.

In a previous league game Jan. 24, Laguna and Godinez played to a scoreless tie Jan. 24 at Centennial Park in Santa Ana. The Grizzlies were the top-ranked team in CIF Southern Section Division 5.

"This was a fantastic result for the boys with them showing real heart and determination to come away with a point," Richards said. "You can easily see why Godinez is the No. 1-ranked team for our division and has been unbeaten all season so far."

The result dropped Godinez to No. 3 in this week's Division 5 poll.

Laguna travels Friday for a 5 p.m. game at Estancia. The Breakers are home to Saddleback Tuesday and Thursday to Godinez. Both matches begin at 6:30 p.m. at Guyer Field.

Girls' Soccer

The Breakers overcame a lineup hit by injury and illness to collect two shutout victories in Orange Coast League play.

Laguna on Tuesday shut down visiting Costa Mesa and took a 3-0 victory at Guyer Field. The Breakers pulled away from a 1-0 halftime lead to win their third league contest. They ended the first half of league play with a 3-1-1 record, good for second place.

The Breakers improved to 8-5-3 overall.

Having been thwarted on several early scoring attempts, the Breakers finally cracked the scoreboard when freshman Christine Johnson received a perfectly placed ball from senior midfielder Johana Abarca, and scored off a rebound in the 35th minute.

Laguna continued to pressure the Costa Mesa goal in the second half and in the 60th minute, senior forward Katelyn Carballo struck a low shot that went inside the left post for a 2-0 lead. Ten minutes later, a Carballo corner kick was headed into the Mesa net by sophomore center player Summer Stanaland.

Laguna played Tuesday's match without three starting defenders plus keeper Kylie George. Coach Bill Rolfing said his reshuffled lineup "stepped up well" behind goalie Kara Dunne-Dombrink.

Dunne-Dombrink got her first start in goal Jan. 23 against Godinez and earned her first shutout when the Breakers blanked the host Grizzlies, 1-0, at Centennial Park in Santa Ana. Senior defender Tessa Hopper scored what turned out to be the winning goal just before the end of the first half. The scoring play was set up by a corner kick by Abarca.

Junior Amy Hewlett played "tenacious defense," Rolfing said.

Laguna played a key match Thursday at league leader Estancia to open the second round of league play. The score wasn't available at press time.

Next week, the Breakers play host to Saddleback Tuesday and Godinez Thursday, both games starting at 5 p.m. at Guyer Field.

"Learned adjustments to each team in the second round will be critical," Rolfing said. "The focus will be to keep the ball high in the attacking third and look to score goals. With injuries and illness, the depth of the roster will be paramount along with each player's mental preparedness."

Girls' Water Polo

Proving their previous two victories over Newport Harbor were no fluke, the Breakers went to Newport Jan. 24 for a nonleague game with the Sailors, and stormed their way to a 13-1 victory.

The win not only followed up 11-8 and 9-5 wins against the Sailors earlier this month, but also turned out to be the most lopsided defeat ever pinned on a Newport Harbor team.

"Friday was a great team win," Laguna Coach Ethan Damato said. "The girls played well in every aspect of the game and did so for four quarters.

"Defensively, to only give up one goal was a tremendous feat. Says a lot about our team defense and [Holly Parker's] play in the cage. "

Parker finished with eight saves. The Breakers came up with 17 steals in the game led by senior Cara Borkovec, junior Mackenzie Fischer and freshman Aria Fischer with three steals apiece.

The Fischer sisters also led Laguna in scoring with four goals each.

Laguna shut out Newport Harbor during the first half of play in the last two meetings between the teams. At the Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions Jan. 18, the Breakers led the Sailors, 6-0, at halftime. In their most recent meeting Jan. 24, they held an 8-0 advantage at the break.

"In Santa Barbara, we shut them out in the first half and played really well overall," Damato said. "After watching the [game] film, I told the girls that I thought we could have played better and more focused for four full quarters.

"That was the goal this last week, to compete for four quarters and not give them anything to build off offensively. Our girls are playing with a lot of pride and effort on the defensive end. I think they know if we want to be the last team standing that it will come on a great defensive effort. "

In two games last week, the Breakers outscored Newport Harbor and Orange Coast League foe Estancia by a combined 37-2.

In three games this season against Newport, Laguna has put up 33 goals on the Sailors.

"We have done a great job the last two games of putting our early, clean looks away against their goalies which is not easy," Damato said. "I think it goes back to our defense and being able to use our defense to get out on the counterattack and create easy looks.

"Our counter was great and Aria [Fischer] was a beast in two-meters, drawing double teams and scoring when she was one-on-one."

Laguna, 17-1 overall, had been rolling the past two weeks despite not having its complete lineup. Freshman Bella Baldridge had not played since suffering a concussion in a nonleague game Jan. 16 at Dos Pueblos, the day before the start of the Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions.

Damato said Baldridge is back in the lineup for the Breakers will play host to Santa Barbara San Marcos in a nonleague game Friday, their first outing since winning at Newport Harbor.

"We couldn't be happier to have her back," Damato said. "Not only is she our third or fourth leading scorer, she leads us in assists, is our only lefty, she's tough and she is a great teammate. It's exciting to finally be at full strength. "

Laguna plays host to the Royals, ranked eighth in CIF Southern Section Division 1, at 3:30 p.m. Friday.

"San Marcos is a good, young team with a lot of good club players from the powerhouse Santa Barbara club system," Damato said. "I expect them to battle us tooth and nail and make us really work on both ends.

"They move really well and a lot, so defending them will be a new challenge but an exciting one nonetheless."

Laguna returns to Orange Coast League play Wednesday and take on Godinez at 6 p.m. at Santa Ana Valley High.

The Breakers enter their third, big tournament of the season Thursday when they start play at the Irvine Southern California Women's Water Polo Championships. The 32-team event continues Friday through Saturday and will be played at pool sites at the William Woollett Jr. Aquatic Center, Corona del Mar High and Foothill High.

Laguna is the top seed in the tournament and heads a Pool A grouping that includes Murrieta Valley, San Marcos, Coronado, Harvard-Westlake, Irvine, Villa Park and Fountain Valley. The Breakers open at 6 p.m. Thursday against eighth-seeded Fountain Valley. Depending on the outcome of opening pool-play games, the Breakers will play No. 3-seeded Coronado or No. 4-seeded Harvard-Westlake in a second game either at 8 p.m. Thursday, or 3 p.m. Friday.

Laguna's first two games will be played at the Woollett Center (Dive pool).

The tournament's championship game is 3 p.m. Saturday at the Woollett Center (Comp pool).

CIF Weekly Rankings

Girls' Water Polo: Laguna Beach (No. 1, Division 1).

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