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Eventful, record breaking year

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the first of two parts. Next week, the January-June review will be published.

Another school year goes into the record book and so, too, do team and individual performances that added success to the Laguna Beach High athletic program.

The sports calendar started in late-August and culminated in late-May. The following are some of the key highlights reported to the Coastline Pilot.

September-December

Laguna moved up a division in boys' water polo for the 2012 season, and the Breakers advanced all the way to the Final Four in Division 2.

The No. 3-seeded Breakers, a two-time defending Southern Section champion, reached the Division 2 semifinals where they were edged by No. 2 Santa Barbara. During the season, the Breakers again went undefeated in Orange Coast League play

Senior Riley Thomas was tabbed MVP of the OCL. Riley and all-league pick Camron Hauer also were named to the All-CIF Division 2 first team. All-league pick Caleb Scott was second-team All-CIF and all-league picks Duncan Lynde and Maxx McCarter (goalie) were named third-team All-CIF,

"I was really proud of our guys, and what they did this year. "It was a big challenge," Laguna Coach Ethan Damato said of the season, and making the move from Division 3 to Division 2.

The Laguna Beach girls' golf team advanced three athletes, Jackie McMahon, Mary Kate Quellmalz and Leslie Dwight, to the Orange Coast League finals in October. McMahon, Laguna's team captain, finished in third place and secured a spot at CIF Southern Section Individuals. The junior shot a 39 on the back nine holes at Mesa Linda Golf Course at Costa Mesa Country Club.

The Breakers ended their year 5-8 overall, and 5-4 in league.

The Laguna girls' volleyball team went through yet another undefeated march through Orange Coast League competition and the No. 4-seeded Breakers advanced to the CIF Division 1-A quarterfinals where they were eliminated by Capistrano Valley. Laguna, which defeated Louisville in a first-round playoff match, reached the CIF quarterfinals for the 37th time in the 41-year history of the girls' volleyball playoffs.

Sophomore outside hitter Alyse Ford was named the OCL MVP and also to the All-CIF Division 1-A team.

In girls' tennis, Laguna again won the OCL crown and won three postseason matches to advance to the semifinal round of the CIF Division 2 playoffs, and was invited to play in the inaugural, 16-team CIF State Southern California Regional tournament.

Six Breakers, singles players Brooke Michaels and Bailey Jaeger, and the doubles teams of Chloe Mansour/Dominique Willette and Katelyn Bo/Sarah Nederlander, competed at the CIF Individuals.

At the end of the Orange Coast League season in November, Michaels captured the league singles title and Mansour/Willette the doubles title. The league singles and doubles finals were all-Laguna affairs.

The Laguna Beach boys' and girls' cross-country teams emerged with top-five finishes in the Division 4 preliminaries in November and each earned a spot at the CIF Southern Section Championships at Mt. San Antonio College. The Laguna boys were one of 16 teams to advance to the Division 4 final from prelims. The Laguna girls' team, which won the Orange Coast League title, took fourth in its heat and reserved a spot in the Division 4 final.

At the CIF Southern Section Championships Division 4 finals the following week, both Laguna teams fell just shy of advancing to the CIF State Championships in Fresno. The boys' team was just 10 points short and the girls' team only nine points away from earning a trip to State.

Both Jack Crawford (34th) and Grant Barton (38th) had top-40 finishes in the boys' Division 4 race. Eliza Romero (29th) and Pearl Shoemaker (40th) finished in the top 40 in the girls' Division 4 race.

"We had a lot of good individual performances but just as a whole we have to pull it together," Laguna Beach girls' coach Steve Lalim said. "Usually our strength is in our numbers and our tight pack, but we just couldn't pull it off."

A season that began for the football Breakers on the final day of August, took them all the way to the fourth weekend of November and into the record books once again.

Laguna ran up big scores and big wins during the 2012 season. The lone blemish during the second-ranked Breakers' first 12 games was a tie game against University in nonleague play back in September. They were 11-0-1 before their season came to a halt in the CIF Southern Section Southern Division semifinals in late November at Garden Grove.

Senior Drake Martinez was named MVP of the Orange Coast League. Senior Blake Hester (Defensive Player of the Year), senior Spencer Anderson (Lineman of the Year) and senior Robbie McInerny (Special Teams Player of the Year) nabbed the other top league awards. Seniors Larry Stewart, Robert Clemons, Adam Farsheed, Steven Harrison and Joe Casey were named to the all-league team.

A few weeks after the season ended, so did Head Coach Mike Churchill's reign as head coach of the program. He resigned after two seasons. His replacement is Corey Brown, a varsity assistant who also was head coach of the Laguna frosh/soph team.

Under Churchill's two-year reign as head coach, Laguna rose to become a league champion and CIF Southern Section contender. His first team, the 2011 squad, went 10-3 and reached the semifinal round of the Southern Division playoffs. His final team, the 2012 group, won an outright Orange Coast League championship, again made it to the Southern Division semifinals, and finished 11-1-1.

Among the numerous individual and team program records the Breakers set over the past two years, this year's team won the most games (11) in a single season in school history.

"I think my two years as head coach here is special in this respect: nobody, two years ago, would have told you that football was important at Laguna Beach High," Churchill said. "The kids on this team the past few years have made it special. The community was re-energized by their success, and alumni would call or e-mail me, telling me how great it was that Laguna football was relevant. That, to me, was the most rewarding."

In the week following Churchill's announcement, longtime Laguna girls' volleyball coach Lance Stewart stepped down from his post.

Stewart coached the Laguna girls' volleyball program for 12 seasons (1989-90, 2003-2012). During that time, his teams won 10 league championships including eight straight between 2005 and this year. Eleven of those teams earned a final CIF Southern Section ranking of No. 4 or higher.

His 2006 and 2007 teams won back-to-back CIF Southern Section Division II-AA titles, and the 2006 squad captured the CIF State Regional Division III title.

"It's been enjoyable. I wouldn't have done it if it wasn't," Stewart said. "I'm going to miss the kids, most of all. It's been a great ride."

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