Girls' Water Polo: One win from glory

For as tremendous the journey has been to date, the season now comes down to a single game for the Laguna Beach High girls' water polo team.

The Breakers have reached their ultimate destination, the William Woollett Jr. Aquatic Center in Irvine but not yet, they say, their ultimate goal.

It's been a simple goal, to win a CIF Southern Section championship, but never an easy one.

The Breakers, the target of many a team in 2014, have put themselves to do just that.

Top-seeded Laguna will return to the Woollett Center Saturday for its final game of the season, the CIF Southern Section Division 1 championship final, three days after the Breakers took care of Los Alamitos, 12-5, at the same pool site they have been working and fighting toward to reach at the end the season.

"We've all been thinking about this all year," Laguna junior utility and co-captain Makenzie Fischer said. "This is where we want to be."

In Saturday's 1 p.m. final, Laguna will face a longtime nemesis, Newport Harbor. The Sailors earned their right to play for the title by edging Santa Barbara, 11-10, in Wednesday's first division semifinal.

The two programs are no stranger to one another.

"We know them well, and they know us well," Laguna Coach Ethan Damato said of the title-game matchup. "The team who comes ready to play, will be successful."

Orange Coast League champion Laguna was ready to play in its semifinal game Wednesday against a Los Alamitos team that won the Sunset League by one game over Newport Harbor.

The Breakers blanked the Griffins (22-9), 2-0, by the end of the first quarter and extended their lead to 7-2 by halftime. Defensively, they pounded Los Alamitos and forced the Griffins to work mostly from long-range. The Breakers either worked the 30-second shot clock to near-expiration, or got the ball back when the Griffins were unable to get off any feasible shot.

"I was really proud of the girls," Damato said. "It was a good first quarter and we played great defense. We didn't put away some shots that I had hoped we would, but it was just a matter of time before we started going on offense."

The Laguna offense picked up in the second quarter. Fischer started the scoring with a quick goal and later scored in the quarter scored on a sideways swipe. Senior utility Cara Borkovec netted her first goal off a feed from freshman attacker Bella Baldridge, freshman utility Aria Fischer planted a back-handed shot into the net, and junior defender Taylor Julson closed out the scoring with a shot from six meters.

Makenzie Fischer led the scoring with five goals, assisted three other scores, and also had two steals. Aria Fischer scored three goals and had an assist, Baldridge scored once, had three assists and a steal, sophomore utility Mia Salvini had two steals, and sophomore goalie Holly Parker had three assists and 11 saves.

"It was a pretty complete team win," Damato said. " "We beat a Los Al team that has one of the best high school water polo coaches in Dave Carlson. They were a hot team coming into this game, but we're a hot team, too. Our girls have been focused throughout the season.

The semifinal victory added to a program-record win streak, now at 20 games, and put the Breakers at 29-1 overall.

Laguna is seeking its first Division 1 crown Saturday in its first Division 1 title-game appearance. The program won the Division 2 title in 2009 and was runner-up to the division crown in 2010. The Breakers reached the semifinal round in both the 2011 and 2012 (Division 1) playoffs, both losses coming in overtime to the eventual champion (Dos Pueblos, 14-13, 3OT; Newport Harbor, 7-6, 3OT).

Newport Harbor also ended Laguna's playoff run last year by winning an 11-10 double-overtime game.

Laguna and Newport Harbor have met twice this season. In the team's first meeting Jan. 4, the Breakers won, 11-8. Three weeks later, the Breakers handed the Sailors a 13-1 loss, the worst defeat in Newport's storied history.

Newport Harbor leads the all-time series, 10-4.

"We're really excited for the opportunity to play Saturday," Aria Fischer said. "Newport's going to come out fired up, but I think if we continue to play as we have been, as cohesive as a team, we'll be successful."

"Our motto this year has been, 'Do what we do,' Damato said. "The girls have struck to that all year."

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