Laguna Beach players celebrate after beating San Marcos in the CIF-SS Division 1 championship game Saturday, February 25, 2017 in Irvine. (Photo by Michael Fernandez, Contributing Photographer)

Laguna Beach dazzles crowd as it wins title, finishes 31-0


IRVINE - More than a dozen girls ages 12 to 14 hung over the rail in the prime, front-row spots in the Woollett Aquatics Center grandstand Saturday night as Laguna Beach’s girls water polo team claimed its riches.

By the stars in their eyes, they could have been at a rock concert.

“That was us, what, four or five years ago,” Laguna Beach senior and Olympian Aria Fischer said of the scene following the Breakers’ historic, 6-2, victory against San Marcos of Santa Barbara and national team member Paige Hauschild in the CIF-SS Division 1 final.

“I vividly remember coming to CIF games, watching the high school girls play and wanting to be like them. I hope we can do the same and inspire them to be in these types of games.”

Before a packed crowd, Laguna Beach (31-0) relied on its defense one more time to cap only the third undefeated season in Orange County history and its third Division 1 crown in four seasons. The Breakers also finished 31-0 in 2015.

Laguna Beach goalie Thea Walsh punctuated the victory with her 10th save on the final play. Fischer also was stellar on defense with four steals and two field blocks.

Laguna Beach senior left-hander Bella Baldridge scored a game-high three goals while Fischer, Alex Peros and Sophia Lucas each added one goal for the Breakers, who led, 3-0, after the opening period.

Laguna Beach’s season was so dominant, its four-goal margin of victory in the final – the Breakers’ slimmest of the season – became a talking point. But the significance for Laguna Beach’s season ran deeper.

“I hope they see a band of sisters out there and group of warriors who are playing for each other,” Laguna Beach coach Ethan Damato said of the young girls from Laguna Beach Water Polo Club in the stands.

“(Our) 2015 team and this team are two of the best teams that I’ve ever coached. It’s hard to say which one is better. They’re a little different.

“But I don’t think people expected this team to be as good as we were.”

Some didn’t expect San Marcos (26-6) to stick with the Breakers. The Royals became the first team to hold Laguna Beach under 10 goals.

“That’s an accomplishment,” San Marcos coach Chuckie Roth said. “They’re a very talented team. … There are successes in losses, and you have to look at that and say we did some things right.”

Goalie Sophie Trumbull matched fellow junior Walsh with 11 saves, including a point-blank save on a breakaway by Fischer in the third period.

Later in the frame, Piper Smith (two goals) pump-faked and scored on the power play to trim Laguna Beach’s lead to 5-2 heading into the fourth. The Breakers’ lead was still, 5-2, in the fourth when the Royals called timeout with 3:50 left. But Baldridge stole the outlet pass near mid-pool and scored on a push-shot with 3:38 remaining to begin the countdown to another title.

“When I was getting out of the pool, I was getting a little teary-eyed because I’m not going to be with this group of girls anymore,” Baldridge said. “I just love all these girls so much. It was so amazing. ... I just got chills.”

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