Laguna Beach's two-year reign as a CIF Southern Section champion in boys' water polo came to an end Wednesday in Irvine.
Laguna, which won the last two Division 3 titles, came up just short of contending for a Division 2 crown in its first year in the division. The No. 3-seeded Breakers reached the semifinal round in the division, but had their title streak stopped by No. 2 Santa Barbara, which scored a 9-7 victory at the William Woollett Jr. Aquatics Center.
Laguna, reigning champion of the Orange Coast League, ended its year at 21-10. Santa Barbara (22-8), which won the Channel League title, moves on to play in the Division 2 title game at Saturday at 2:45 p.m.
"I was really proud of our guys, and what they did this year," Laguna Coach Ethan Damato said. "We didn't play well tonight but we were 9-7 against a good Santa Barbara team. Our guys didn't give up until the final whistle."
Laguna led just twice in the semifinal. The Breakers took a 1-0 lead 34 seconds into the game on a skip shot into the right side of the cage by Riley Thomas. Their final lead came less than a minute later, when Caleb Scott scored from close range to make it 2-1.
Santa Barbara scored the next three goals and took the lead for good, 3-2, on a goal by Nathaniel Hunter with the Dons holding a six-on-five advantage.
Laguna drew to within 4-3 at the end of the first quarter when Jack Dodson drilled a shot into the left corner of the cage just before the buzzer. The Breakers managed only a goal by Duncan Lynde, off an assist from Trevor Collins, in the second quarter, where Santa Barbara was able to extend its lead to 7-4 at the break.
Laguna, which was just two of eight in power-play situations, outscored the Dons, 3-2, in the second half. The Breakers had chances to narrow the gap early in the half but missed their first four shots of the third quarter. They finally broke through when a steal by Camron Hauer led to another goal by Dodson to bring the score to 7-5 with 2:48 left in the quarter.
The Breakers drew to within 8-6 with 5:30 left on a goal by Scott, but with two Laguna players drawing exclusions during the same sequence, Santa Barbara was able to move back into a three-goal cushion when Skylar Matthews scored on a power play with 3:28 to play.
Thomas, Laguna's leading scorer this season, netted his second goal of the game with 2:14 left to make it 9-7.
"We had our chances to get the game to within one goal, but in six-on-five situations, we weren't sharp tonight," Damato said. "I thought we did a nice job of controlling the tempo in the second half. We had a lot of chances."
Wednesday marked the second time this season that Santa Barbara had taken a two-goal victory from Laguna. The Dons won the first meeting, 10-8, at the Tournament of Champions in Santa Barbara in September.
"It was a big challenge," Damato said of the move from Division 3, to Division 2. "I'm proud of what our guys seniors did, as a group, and how our younger players stepped up. We're all disappointed with the loss, but I'm proud of our guys."
The Laguna Beach boys' and girls' teams emerged with top-five finishes in the Division 4 preliminaries on Nov. 10 and each earned a spot in the CIF Southern Section Championships on Saturday at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut.
The boys' Division 4 championship races starts at 9:45 a.m. The girls' title race starts at 10:45 a.m.
The Laguna boys are one of 16 teams to advance to the finals from prelims. The Breakers finished third, behind Fillmore and Don Bosco, in their heat, and placed fifth, overall, in the team standings. Eight teams from each of the two heats advance to Saturday's final.
Times turned in at prelims by the Laguna boys' teams: sophomore Grant Barton (16:17); junior Casey Koprowski (16:28); junior Veda Rebollar (16:51); senior Mitch Kimball (16:53); sophomore Cameron Zuziak (17:02); freshman Penn Neilson (17:37); Freshman Ian Ring (17:56).
Laguna boys' coach Scott Wittkop said he "rested" a few of the key Breakers who didn't compete at prelims.
"We ran well as a team, our only goal was to move on," Wittkop said. "We have a great shot to move on to state. Our team is well prepared and ready to compete."
The top seven teams in the Division 4 standings from Saturday's final, advance to compete Nov. 24 at the CIF State Championships at Woodward Park in Fresno.
The Laguna girls' team took fourth in its heat and reserved a spot in Saturday's Division 4 final.
"I am excited to see how we perform when all is on the line [Saturday]," girls' coach Steve Lalim said. "The girls are ready."
Lalim also "rested" rested key runners last weekend. Janie Crawford and Carlee Ressler, both of whom didn't compete at prelims, will compete at Saturday's finals, he said.
Times turned in at prelims by the girls' team: Eliza Romero (19:42); Natalie Kimball (20:09); Livie Clark (20:16); Brenna Merchant (20:23); Monica White (20:31); Pearl Shoemaker (20:39); Katie Grayden (21:29).
Lalim said that Crawford, Romero, Clark, Ressler, Kimball, Merchant and White, will run at Saturday's final.
The top seven teams from Saturday's Division 4 final, advance to the CIF State meet on Nov. 24.
Coach Don Davis' Breakers on Sunday qualified for the inaugural, 16-team CIF State Southern California Regional tournament. On Tuesday , the Breakers fell, 5-2, in a first-round match at Granada Hills.
The tournament field is made up of teams from the four CIF Southern California sections: Southern, Los Angeles, Central and San Diego. Games were played as a best-of-seven match. Four singles players and three doubles teams competed for each school, with each set, a best-of-three.
Granada Hills is the No. 1 team from the Los Angeles Section, and the tournament's No. 4 overall seed. Laguna, which repeated as Orange Coast League champion, reached the semifinal round of the CIF Southern Section Division 2 playoffs last week. The Breakers were the No. 13 seed in the regional.
Laguna won points in two of four lines of singles play but dropped three close doubles matches, each which went to three sets. Kira Hamilton, at No. 2 singles, picked up a point following 6-0, 6-1 wins. Bailey Jaeger, at No. 3 singles, scored the other point for Laguna by posting 6-2, 6-1 wins.
"Although we lost, the team's performance shows how far we came as a team,," Davis said. "We enjoyed a great season, and the graduating seniors will be missed."
Brooke Michaels, singles champion in the Orange Coast League, and league singles runner-up Bailey Jaeger, along with OCL doubles champs Chloe Mansour and Dominique Willette, and the Breakers' doubles team of league runners-up Katelyn Bo and Sarah Nederlander, are automatic qualifiers for the CIF Southern Section Individual tournament which starts Monday at Corona del Mar High.
The 2012 season came to an end last Saturday for the No. 4-seed Breakers, who fell, 25-21, 25-23, 25-19, at Capistrano Valley in the quarterfinal round of the CIF Southern Section Division 1-A playoffs.
It was the 16th meeting between the teams, with South Coast League champ Capo Valley getting its first win in the series. The loss was the first in a quarterfinal round game for Laguna since 1998.
Alyse Ford had 29 kills and seven digs, Francie Holte and Julia Goggin had 14 and nine digs, respectively, and Sevana Drovak had 33 assists and six digs for Laguna.
Laguna moved on to the round of eight after traveling to Woodland Hills on Nov. 8 and defeating host Louisville, 25-15, 19-25, 25-20, 28-26, in the second round. Ford had 31 kills and nine digs, Sami Harting had 10 kills, and Goggin (12 digs) and Sabrina Stillwell both had eight kills. Holte led the Breakers in digs with 19, Stillwell had a team-high six aces, and Drovak finished with 56 assists and eight digs.
Ford finished the year with 488 kills.
The Breakers, champions of the Orange Coast League, reached the CIF Southern Section quarterfinals for the 37th time in the 41-year history of the girls' volleyball playoffs. They finished the year 18-7.
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