One goal left for Breakers: CIF title

Before the Orange Coast League girls' water polo season got underway last month, Laguna Beach, for many a good reason, was dubbed the odds-on favorite to sprint away with the league championship.

Well, that league season came to a close Wednesday and the Breakers not only met those odds, they obliterated them.

The top-ranked team in CIF Southern Section Division 1 stepped on the pedal early against visiting Costa Mesa, steadily built an insurmountable lead, and accelerated to a 23-1 victory that capped another undefeated run (4-0) en route to yet another league title.

Laguna scored its first six goals during a 2:23 span of the opening quarter. The Breakers led, 8-0, after one quarter and took a 15-0 lead into halftime.

They were up, 21-0, heading into the fourth quarter.

Twelve Breakers scored led by junior utility Makenzie Fischer's four goals. Freshman attacker Bella Baldridge scored three goals and junior attackers Daniela Lucidi and Taylor Julson, sophomore attacker Natalie Selin and freshman utility Aria Fischer, each scored twice.

Wednesday's game marked Senior Day for Laguna which honored its two senior players, goalie Jenna Knott and utility Cara Borkovec, at the conclusion of the contest. Knott played in the cage for two quarters and also played in the field. She scored once and finished with four saves. Borkovec netted three goals, had two assists and a steal.

"It's great to be league champs again," said Laguna Coach Ethan Damato who substituted freely throughout the contest. "It was nice to give Jenna [Knott] and Cara [Borkovec] plenty of playing time today, and see Jenna play in the field."

Sophomore goalie Holly Parker gave a strong performance and registered seven saves. One such save came on a block of a Costa Mesa shot in the closing seconds of the first half. Parker then collected the ball and fired a shot the full length of the pool and into the Costa Mesa goal before the halftime buzzer sounded.

Parker was outstanding during the fourth quarter where she came up with numerous blocks with Costa Mesa enjoying several six-on-five player advantages. The Mustangs converted only one-such situation when Melissa Volkerts found the upper-left corner of the canvas of the Laguna goal with only 1:16 left to play.

Ninety-six to eight. Those weren't the league odds, rather, the total goals scored differential between Laguna and its four league foes.

Wednesday's league finale came on the heels of a busy weekend for the Breakers who were coming off an impressive showing at the Irvine Southern California Championships at the William Woollett Jr. Aquatic Center. They captured the tournament championship with a 5-0 record, defeating Fountain Valley (23-3), Coronado (17-3), San Marcos (14-9), Corona del Mar (7-1) in the semifinals, and Foothill (10-3) in Saturday's championship game.

Laguna previously won the Newport Holiday Cup and Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions tournament titles during the regular season.

"I'm so proud of this team and what we have accomplished during the regular season," Damato said. "Winning all three tournaments, losing only one game and being No. 1 for every week but one, is really special. It says a lot about this team and how great of a team they are.

"We have one more goal to reach as a team and the girls are focused and ready to win one more championship."

The Breakers have one regular-season game remaining, a 3:30 p.m. nonleague matchup at El Toro Friday.

"Should be a fun game," Damato said. "We play club with all the girls, so we all know each other well. We will use that game to work on some things and tune up before the playoffs."

Laguna is expected to land the No. 1 seed when the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoff pairings are revealed Sunday. The Breakers will play host to a first-round game Wednesday.

Damato said his team has one more tournament goal in sight: winning a CIF championship.

"Right now the top seven-eight teams are playing each other really tough," he said of a talented Division 1 field. "We will attack the playoffs one game at a time and will prepare for four tough games if we want to win a championship.

"This week we are watching film from the [Irvine] tournament and really pushing our conditioning. We are stoked with what we have accomplished but not one girl is satisfied. We're pumped for the playoffs. "

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