The Santa Margarita water polo team celebrate with championship plaque after their victory over Laguna Beach in the CIF-SS Division 2 water polo championship in Irvine on Saturday. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Santa Margarita topples Laguna Beach in Div. 2 final


IRVINE – Coach Jeremy Laster stood on the pool deck Saturday smiling as his players in the water celebrated Santa Margarita’s first CIF-SS title in boys water polo.

Even with the Eagles faithful in the stands chanting “Jeremy! Jeremy!” the Olympian didn’t budge until assistant Vince Garcia tossed him into the tank at the Woollett Aquatics Center, completing the traditional celebratory plunge.

“This isn’t about me,” Santa Margarita’s first-year coach said after the third-seeded Eagles captured the Division 2 title with a 6-4 victory against top-seeded Laguna Beach. “This is about these guys playing unbelievably well. And they earned it. They deserved it.”

Santa Margarita’s defense and chemistry certainly were exceptional, pushing the Eagles (26-7) to a 10th consecutive victory and the 62nd CIF team title in school history.

Jack Baumgardner, Santa Margarita’s lone senior, recorded three field blocks while Brock Petersen recorded five steals and a critical field block with about 40 seconds left in the fourth period.

Petersen’s field block, coming out of a Laguna Beach timeout, led to a textbook counterattack that featured four passes. The fastbreak resulted in an assist from Yurian Quinones to AJ Rossman, who capped the scoring and secured the title with 35 seconds left.

Petersen credited Santa Margarita goalie Noah Hodge, busy with nine saves, for directing the field blockers into proper position against the Breakers (21-10).

Hodge, meanwhile, praised his team’s communication while Laster mentioned the 2-meter defense of Petersen’s brother, Chase, who has three steals and guarded in the fourth period with two fouls.

“I’ve learned two things in my life,” said Laster, who won a CIF title with San Clemente in 1991. “If you have a good 2-meter defender and/or a good goalie, you’ve very fortunate and we had both.”

But for the Eagles, it all started with chemistry.

“We’ve meshed so well,” said Hodge, who dueled with Laguna Beach goalie Gordon Pike (seven saves). “I love each and every one of (my teammates).”

Baumgardner paced Santa Margarita’s attack with two goals, including a counterattack strike for a 4-2 lead early in the third period. The UC Irvine commit also drew an exclusion that led to Chase Petersen’s power-play goal, off an assist from his brother, for a 5-2 advantage with 1:32 left in the third.

Senior Judge Washer led Laguna Beach with two goals, and assisted goals by Sebastian Jacobs and Colton Gregory in the fourth as the Breakers threatened to tie the score.

“It’s definitely a tough loss but I couldn’t be more proud of my teammates,” Washer said. “We’ve really had a lot of adversity this year. … We really showed what we were made of.” 

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