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PHOTO, TEXT BY DAN ALBANO, OCVARSITY.COM
Laguna Beach's girls water polo team captured the Irvine SoCal Championships with an 11-3 victory against San Marcos on Saturday.

Laguna Beach captures Irvine SoCal crown

STAFF WRITER

IRVINE – Laguna Beach’s girls water polo team returned to championship form Saturday doing what it does best.

With a balanced and movement-based offense and a stingy defense, the top-seeded Breakers stormed past No. 3 San Marcos, 11-3, in the finals of the Irvine Southern California Championships at the Woollett Aquatics Center.

Laguna Beach (23-2) had a rough two days in Santa Barbara last month. The Breakers’ 63-game winning streak ended and they lost their No. 1 ranking in Division 1. But after capturing a third consecutive SoCal crown, the Breakers at least made an argument that they should be No. 1.

Related: Irvine SoCal all-tourney team

The tournament didn’t include top-ranked Orange Lutheran.

“You gain from losing and I think we kind of got the fire back that we needed,” Laguna Beach all-tournament selection Haley Evans said.

“No. 1 (or) No. 2 (for the playoffs) doesn’t really matter. … Everyone is really good this year. We have to keep getting better.”

Laguna Beach was sharp against San Marcos (25-3), which beat No. 2 seed Foothill, 7-5, in the semifinals. Freshman Sophie Leggett led five Breakers in scoring with four goals. All-tournament pick Natalie Selin, defender Ally Jochim and Bella Baldridge each scored twice.

In the semifinals, Selin and freshman Evan Tingler each scored three goals in a 10-4 victory against nemesis Dos Pueblos of Goleta.

Without a dominant center, the Breakers used their counterattack to score twice and draw exclusions (4 for 7 on the power-play) against San Marcos. They also posted up different players. Sophia Lucas drove weak-side late in a possession in the first period and scored.

Former Laguna Beach standout Makenzie Fischer, who attended the game with her sister and U.S. national teammate, Aria, said the Breakers’ movement reminded her of Team USA’s “havoc” offense that features multiple drivers.

“I was really impressed,” Fischer said.

Irvine coach Scott Hinman watched attentively. “They have more girls with game sense than anyone,” he said. “That’s why there’s always someone popping (open).”

All-tournament goalie Holly Parker anchored Laguna Beach’s defense with 10 saves. Coach Ethan Damato’s team played a different version of its drop defense and still held national teamer Paige Hauschild, selected the tournament’s top field player, without a natural goal.

“We played as a unit,” Jochim said. “We definitely come together as a team when we need it the most.”

In the third-place game:

Dos Pueblos 10, Foothill 7: Noelle Wijnbelt scored four goals but the Knights fell to the Chargers (17-6), who were led by Abbi Hill (four goals) and Ryann Neushul (three).

In the fifth-place game:

Corona del Mar 13, Royal 9: Jaleh Moaddeli scored six goals and Heidi Ritner, selected the tournament's outstandingoalie, made 13 saves to lead the Sea Queens.

In the seventh-place match:

Murrieta Valley 4, El Toro 2: The Nighthawks defeated the Chargers for the third time.

Contact the writer: dalbano@ocregister.com


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