Laguna Beach's Aria Fischer takes a shot as Dos Pueblos' Ryann Neushul tries to block in the second half of the CIF-SS Division 1 girls water polo playoffs, Feb. 22, 2017, at the Woollett Aquatics Center. Laguna Beach went on to beat Dos Pueblos 14-4. (Photo by Steven Georges, Contributing Photographer)

Laguna Beach dominates Dos Pueblos in reaching Division 1 final (video)


IRVINE – Laguna Beach girls water polo coach Ethan Damato has learned not to be surprised by the capabilities of his team. But even he was taken aback with what he saw Wednesday night.

The top-seeded Breakers executed in all phases – offense, defense and power-play – en route to a 14-4 victory against talented Dos Pueblos of Goleta in the CIF-SS Division 1 semifinals at the Woollett Aquatics Center.

“I’m surprised at how good we did everything,” said Damato, whose squad improved to 30-0. “I have a lot of confidence in this team. I think they’re an incredibly special group. … But if you would have asked me if we would be that efficient in all areas, I don’t know if I would have (believed it).”

In advancing to Saturday’s final against third-seeded San Marcos, Laguna Beach racked up 11 assists.

Olympian Aria Fischer scored a match-high four goals and added two assists. Bella Baldridge scored three goals and tallied four assists.

Claire Sonne had three assists while Sophia Lucas added three goals. Isabel Riches also scored twice.

Laguna Beach converted on its first four power-play chances and finished 4 for 5.

And when Dos Pueblos (22-8), featuring three players on the U.S. national youth team, managed a good shot, Laguna Beach goalie Thea Walsh and her quick hands were waiting. The junior made 11 saves, including one against a first-period penalty shot.

Laguna Beach led, 14-1, early in the fourth period.

“We play as a team. We’re a family and we trust each other,” Walsh said. “That’s a huge part of how we execute.”

Fischer is the ace. The gold medalist tossed a fade-away, cross-cage lob shot in off the post early in the third after a pass by Baldridge. Dos Pueblos blocked a power-play attempt later in the period but Fischer cleaned things up with a goal.

“Everything they did worked. Everything we did they had an answer for,” Dos Pueblos coach Connor Levoff said. “Throw in the really superior players they have like Thea … and Aria … that’s a lot to handle.”

Also in Division 1:

San Marcos 11, Mater Dei 9: Senior Paige Hauschild scored two of her three goals in the first period and added two steals and a field block to help the Royals (25-5) reach their first Division 1 final.

San Marcos never trailed and led, 9-5, at halftime. The score was striking for the Royals because Mater Dei twice defeated them, 9-8, earlier in the season.

San Marcos scored three times just seconds after a Mater Dei strike.

“That’s killer,” said Mater Dei coach Chris Segesman, who didn’t start a senior. “(But) our goal was to make semifinals this year. … This year will go a long ways for us going into the offseason and next year.”

Grace Thawley paced No. 2 seed Mater Dei (24-6) with four goals while Hannah Constandse added two. The Monarchs started 2 for 7 on the power play and finished 4 for 9.

San Marcos coach Chuckie Roth said his team's composure, honed after a loss to Orange Lutheran in the semifinals last season, was key to the victory.

"That experience (last year) helped us," Roth said. "It helped settle down some of our younger players and not get consumed in the moment."

San Marcos' composure showed in scoring on its first two shots in the first 1:03 of the first.

It also surfaced in the second half. Late in the second period, the Royals were called for a penalty shot for not exiting after an exclusion call. Thawley converted the 5-meter shot to make it 9-5 at halftime and the Monarchs' Tea Poljak scored to open the third period. But San Marcos recovered to score twice in the final in the final 2 1/2 minutes of the third to lead, 11-7, going into the fourth.   

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