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MIGUEL VASCONCELLOS, FOR THE REGISTER
Mackenzie Baldridge of Laguna Beach tries to push past Foothill's Sydney Groot during Friday's game.
See more photos from this game in the OCVarsity Hot Shots slideshow.

Foothill ekes past Laguna Beach in OT

ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

SANTA ANA – Foothill's girls water polo team needed to steady itself a few times Friday night from the powerful waves delivered by Laguna Beach and sophomore Makenzie Fischer.

It was just the type of test the Knights needed.

Lefty Ashley Zwirner scored on a high-arching, cross-cage lob shot with 1:40 left in the first three-minute overtime to lift top-ranked Foothill past visiting No. 6 Laguna Beach, 9-8, in the nonleague match.

Goalie Kelsey Roland added 14 saves in arguably her best match of the season as the Knights defended their No. 1 ranking in the county and Division 1 (they're tied with Santa Barbara).

Foothill (15-2) is seeking to consistently play at a high-level as its season reaches the mid-point.


SLIDESHOW: OCVarsity Hot Shots: Friday's wrestling, water polo, soccer


"We're working on keeping a really good, even season," the UCLA-bound Zwirner said. "(Last year) at the beginning of the season, we were super high and then we didn't end our season so hot (in the semifinals)."

The Knights encountered a few extra trials Friday. Foothill not only faced a motivated foe that it had already beaten twice, it carried the weight of being a Division 1 favorite.

"We kind of have a big target on our backs," Zwirner said. "We're trying to play up to our potential."

Fischer made the Knights' navigation rocky but Foothill responded when it mattered most.

The U.S. youth team player scored two of her game-high four goals in the fourth period to help the Breakers take their first lead since early in the first period.

Fischer scored on the power-play with 1:42 left in the fourth period to give Laguna Beach an 8-7 lead.

But Foothill, which led 7-3 at the half, answered with its own power-play strike about 30 seconds later.

Cana Manzella, another top sophomore, scored off a cross-pass from Nikki Stansfield with 1:10 left in regulation to knot the score, 8-8.

Foothill then scored first in overtime as Zwirner took a pass from center and scored from about 5 meters for her team-high third goal.

"Sometimes you can't block a good shot," said Laguna Beach coach Ethan Damato, who called Zwirner's high-arching shot as a "sky ball."

"I think that was the perfect shot."

Roland then made perhaps her best save, deflecting a close-range chance by Fischer after a drive in front of the goal.

Laguna Beach (12-6) charged in the second three-minute overtime but a late goal by Fischer was waved off because she delayed her shot after being fouled outside 5 meters (see video).

"She's a great player," Damato said of Fischer. "She wasn't perfect. She made some mistakes in the first half and she knows that. But she wanted to win in the second half and I think all the girls did.”"

Laguna Beach still saw progress. The Breakers lost to Foothill, 13-6, at the Santa Barbara tournament and 9-5 at the Holiday Cup.

"I think we can play with anybody," Damato said.

The Breakers have been working to improve their power-play. They finished 3 for 9 with the extra attacker Friday; Foothill went 3 for 7.

Laguna Beach freshman goalie Holly Parker entered in the third quarter and finished with six saves. Lexie Del Toro added two second-half goals, including an impressive re-direct on a drive behind Fischer setting 2 meters (see video).

Roland made three saves against the Laguna Beach's man-advantage. Stansfield drew five exclusions, including a penalty shot she converted in the second period.

Zwirner scored twice in the Knights' six-goal outburst in the second period that built the 7-3 lead.

Contact the writer: dalbano@ocregister.com


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