Less than a week after being handed its first loss of the season, the Laguna Beach High girls' water polo team got back to its winning ways Wednesday.
The Breakers, who were derailed Jan. 10 at home by Foothill, stormed past host Saddleback, 27-8, in an Orange Coast League opener. Defensively, they held the Roadrunners to a single goal in the opening half, and were well in command at halftime, leading, 18-1.
Freshman attacker Bella Baldridge, junior utility Makenzie Fischer and senior utility Cara Borkovec, each scored four goals to lead the Laguna offense. Baldridge also had a team-high four assists.
The Breakers set new program records for points (27) in a game and total assists (25).
Laguna, the defending OCL champion, won its 10th game in improving to 10-1.
"It was good to see the girls playing loose and having fun," Laguna Coach Ethan Damato said. "We had a great first quarter and jumped out to a big lead. Saddleback never gave up and played hard for four quarters.
"This [game] was great for us, because we were able to work on different defenses, run different plays, and get ready for the upcoming games this weekend. This game served as a nice tune-up before [Friday's] game with Dos Pueblos."
Laguna is in Santa Barbara this weekend for the Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions. The two-day tournament starts Friday and runs through Saturday. Games will be played at the high school pools at Santa Barbara and Dos Pueblos.
Laguna is the top seed in Pool A, which includes Santa Margarita, San Marcos, and Corona Santiago. Pool B includes Corona del Mar, Mater Dei, Murrieta Valley and Dos Pueblos; Pool C is Newport Harbor, Santa Barbara, Montebello and El Toro; Pool D is Foothill, Los Alamitos, Agoura and San Clemente.
The Breakers open tourney play at 1:30 p.m. Friday against Santiago at Santa Barbara High.
"The Tournament of Champions is the toughest tournament of the year as every year, the best 16 teams in Southern California are invited to play," Damato said. "The field is really tough every year and your spot is never guaranteed. A lot of the same teams [competing] from the Holiday Cup, but a deeper talent pool with most of the top [CIF Southern Section] Division 2 teams, as well."
One team the Breakers could run into at the tournament is Foothill.
The Knights did something that none of Laguna's previous nine opponents could do: beat the Breakers. They did it by an 8-7 final.
"Hats off to Foothill who came into our pool and played harder than us, pressed us and really controlled the tempo in the first half," Damato said. "We had an off-game in every aspect and just couldn't seem to get out of it.
"We had enough chances to win, we got a lot of good looks all game but had a hard time scoring. Defensively, we didn't finish every possession and thus gave up some goals late in the clock that really hurt us. I think we will learn from this game and be stronger because of it.
"Bottom line is, if we don't play well, we can lose and I think we had to learn that as a team the hard way."
The Foothill loss knocked LB from No. 1, a spot the Breakers have held since the start of the season.
That spot now belongs to Foothill.
"The rankings are important but we haven't even discussed them as a team," Damato said. "This weekend's [Santa Barbara] tournament has all the top teams including Foothill.
"We are excited to get back to work after that loss and I think have a little chip on our shoulder going into the weekend. "
Damato said Laguna has never won the Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions. Last year, the Breakers finished in sixth place.
They have finished in sixth place or better, their last five trips north.
Prior to the Tournament of Champions, Laguna took on Dos Pueblos in a nonleague game Thursday. The score wasn't available at press time.
Starting Orange Coast League play on the road Wednesday, and against a defending CIF Southern Section champion, was a tall task for the Breakers who, with a spirited second-half performance, were up to the task.
Laguna rallied from a 2-1 halftime deficit at Saddleback by scoring twice in the second half and shut down the Roadrunners in the process, to emerge with a 3-2 victory.
"This was a fantastic result and a great way to start our Orange Coast League campaign," Laguna Coach Dan Richards said. "To have to go on the road against the reigning CIF (Division 5) champions for our opening game was never going to be easy.
"It was definitely not the greatest game of soccer you'll ever see and both teams looked nervous at times, but our main aim was to get the win and off to a positive start for the season."
Laguna was down two goals before a goal by sophomore Eddie Willette late in the first half drew the Breakers to within 2-1 at the break. A goal from junior Tommy Ressler, tied the score, and senior Chris Tellez planted the winning score.
"We felt we started the game very strongly and missed a few really good chances in the first 15 or 20 minutes to take the lead," Richards said. "To then give them two sloppy goals at our end was very disappointing and made our task a lot harder."
Sophomore goalie Dante Amodeo had seven saves.
"The boys showed excellent character to come back, first, with Eddie [Willette] scoring near the end of the first half, and then Tommy [Ressler] getting a goal from long range," Richards said. "Chris' (Tellez) final goal was well taken and having missed a couple of early opportunities, it was great to see him persevere and get the game winner.
"Dante [Amodeo] also made some great saves during a 15-minute period in the second half where Saddleback started to put us under real pressure. Having keepers from both teams also making saves from penalty kicks, just shows how exciting this opening league game was."
The Breaker play host to Estancia for a 6:30 p.m. league game Friday at Guyer Field. On Wednesday, they face Calvary Chapel at 3:15 p.m. at Centennial Park in Santa Ana.
In other OCL openers Wednesday, Estancia edged Costa Mesa, 1-0, and Calvary Chapel suffered a 7-0 loss to Godinez.
"We know Estancia on Friday will be a really tough test," Richards said. "They have some of the most talented players in the division and are sure to come ready to play. Every league game is going to be hard and every single point gained is huge as we fight for that [CIF] playoff spot."
Playing in windy conditions, and on the road, the Breakers made their Orange Coast League season debut a success Tuesday by winning, 3-2, at Saddleback.
Laguna took a 1-0 lead in the first half but trailed, 2-1, at halftime. They rallied to win by scoring two second-half goals.
The Breakers took a 1-0 lead on a goal from junior forward Paige Vitolo who scored from 20 yards out. In the second half, a perfect pass from senior defender Tessa Hopper set up a score by junior midfielder Audrey Pillsbury which tied the score.
The winning goal developed from a corner kick by the Breakers. Sophomore forward Katelyn Carballo's kick from the corner sailed to the Saddleback back post where Janie Crawford headed the ball into the net.
The comeback win allowed Laguna to improve to 6-4-2 overall.
"This was a big match," Coach Bill Rolfing said of the league opener. "Despite giving up the early lead, the come-from-behind win was rooted in pure determination. Smart ground passing against the wind and utilizing the wings gave us the right chemistry to score."
The Breakers tuned up for the start of league play by finishing their nonleague schedule Jan. 9 against Ocean View. The Breakers shut out the Seahawks, ranked No. 7 in CIF Southern Section Division 6, 2-0.
Rolfing said the win, combined with last week's 1-0 shutout win at Woodbridge, gave the young Laguna team "needed confidence."
He called the triumph a "very important springboard match" to the start of league play.
A 35-yard free kick in the opening half by junior defender Amy Hewlett rolled untouched all the way
into the Ocean View goal. Rolfing said the Breaker' score in the second half, a goal by Carballo, was the team's "best of the season, so far," calling Carballo's play a "spectacular individual effort."
Carballo won a ball 30 yards out from the Ocean View goal, made a solo dribble through three defenders and then planted a blast into the roof of the Seahawks' goal.
Laguna's defensive effort gave junior goalie Kylie George her sixth shutout of the season.
The Breakers next week play two more league games starting with a 3:15 p.m. Tuesday match against Calvary Chapel at Centennial Park in Santa Ana.
Laguna returns to Centennial Park Thursday to face Godinez at 3:15 p.m.
CIF Weekly Rankings
Boys' Basketball: Laguna Beach (No. 9, Division 4AA).
Girls' Water Polo: Laguna Beach (No. 2, Division 1).