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Laguna Beach's Aria Fischer has been selected as the Register's All-County girls water polo player of the year for 2016-17. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen,Orange County Register/SCNG)

Girls water polo player of the year: Laguna Beach's Aria Fischer

STAFF WRITER

LAGUNA BEACH Aria Fischer’s water polo story delivered a golden finish even before her senior season began at Laguna Beach.

She capped a dogged rise from being a national team darkhorse to help the U.S. women’s team capture the gold medal at the Rio Olympics in August.

But a young and motivated Fischer wasn’t done crafting her tale. There was more growth to show, new challenges to conquer and important time to spend with childhood teammates.

So a new chapter began. She seamlessly resumed playing the Breakers’ team-oriented game, matured as a leader and dominated on both ends of the pool to lead Laguna Beach to only the third undefeated season in Orange County history.

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ALL-COUNTY TEAM

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For her efforts, the Stanford-bound Fischer is the Register’s girls water polo player of the year.

“She had one of the most dominating seasons in high school water polo that anyone has had … boys or girls,” Laguna Beach girls coach Ethan Damato said.

Fischer led Laguna Beach (31-0) to the CIF-SS Division 1 title by scoring a team-leading 103 goals, and she finished second to teammate Bella Baldridge in assists with 58.

In four games against overmatched league opponents, Fischer – who won all the season’s top individual awards -- tallied more assists (nine) than goals (four). The games were further examples of her embrace of the team concept.

“She was beyond selfless this year,” Baldridge said of Fischer, voted CIF-SS Division 1 player of the year, MVP of the Santa Barbara tournament and outstanding field player at the Irvine SoCal Championships.

“Aria has always been a great team player. But when she came back (from the Olympics), we were all kind of nervous because we wanted to see what would happen.

“When you go off to the Olympics, obviously you realize that you’re an amazing player and that might go to your head … But Aria never, ever showed that once.”

Baldridge said Fischer’s dedication toward team play and hard training pushed the Breakers toward their goals. They finished 81-1 in three years with Fischer in the water.

When there were miscues this season, Fischer used her improved leadership to help remedy them, barking instructions to catch-up a teammate.

“She seemed very mature,” Baldridge said of Fischer, who also led Laguna Beach in steals with 61.

“She’s really good at leading the team. Aria is a very passionate player and we all know that, so if she does yell, we never take it (personally).”

Fischer also is passionate about her teammates and the Laguna Beach community. She grew up playing in Laguna Beach Water Polo Club and wanted one last season with her childhood teammates.

“It was really special to go undefeated and to end up winning CIF, but the team itself was actually even more special,” she said. “Just the way we got along and the memories we made. Some things I will always remember.”

Fischer also shined as an individual like never before. With her sister and two-time Register player of the year, Makenzie, at Stanford, she was the undisputed driving force and vocal leader for the Breakers.

Fischer also was no longer the underdog who surprised some in making the Olympic team at age 17. She was the player in the spotlight, and she delivered across the board.

“I loved being the underdog and getting the chance to prove people wrong, but this year provided its own set of challenges,” Fischer said.

“I got a chance to be a leader and see how I would be as a leader. That was something really cool for me and a skill I needed to develop and this year helped me.”

And Laguna Beach.

Contact the writer: dalbano@scng.com


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