It's January, and more than a month into the 2012-13 girls' water polo season, but the Laguna Beach High Breakers are just starting to come together as a complete team.
The Breakers began the season in late-November without starter Makenzie Fischer, but had several other players, veterans and newcomers alike, step up and lead the team during a formidable, 10-game schedule to start the season. Now, they are at full strength and working on finding their rhythm.
"We have been a steady work in progress all year," said Laguna Coach Ethan Damato, whose team is 7-3 overall and ranked sixth in CIF Souther Section Division 1. "We got knocked a few times so far but I think we are learning from our setbacks and taking steps to fix what we are doing wrong."
Fischer returned to the Laguna lineup Dec. 14 after having played with the USA Water Polo Women's Youth National Team (18-and-under) at the FINA Youth Water Polo World Championships in Australia in early December. The Breakers started the season 2-1 and have gone 5-2 since her return
"Fischer has been great since she has been back," Damato said. "She is very versatile and one of the top players in the country. Sydney Saxe has been playing great two-meter defense. Lexi Del Toro has been a great leader and steady force for us, and Mackee (Mackenzie) Baldridge has also done a great job so far. Younger girls, Brighid Burnes, Haley Evans and Natalie Seling, have been rotating as starters so far this year."
Laguna took part last week in the Holiday Cup tournament hosted by Newport Harbor and Corona del Mar. The Breakers went 2-2 at the event and in the fifth-place game Saturday, lost, 13-8, to Santa Margarita. Fischer scored five goals to lead the Breakers.
Laguna opened tourney play on Dec. 28 and defeated Edison, 12-2, for its second win of the season over the Chargers. Fischer had four goals, two steals and three assists, Del Toro had three goals and four steals, and Burnes had two goals and two assists.
In their second game that day, the Breakers were upended, 9-5, by Foothill, which went on to repeat as Holiday Cup champion. In their first of two games Saturday, the Breakers scored a 9-6 win over Dos Pueblos. Del Toro had four goals and two assists, Fischer scored four goals, Jenna Knott had three saves and three steals, and Holly Parker had five saves.
"We showed some great signs of things to come, but we struggled in our second games (Foothill, Santa Margarita) on Friday and Saturday," Damato said. "We will be looking to improve this week and play these same teams at the Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions Jan. 11-12."
The Breakers have ruled the Orange Coast League for the past six years and haven't lost a league game during that span. They open league play Wednesday at 3:15 p.m. at Costa Mesa.
"We are excited about the start of league play and look forward to another strong year," Damato said.
Sprinkled between four league games in the coming weeks are important nonleague games and two big tournaments. The Breakers travel Thursday to play a rematch against Dos Pueblos. They will then play at the Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions before taking on Foothill and Newport Harbor. At the end of the month, they compete at the Irvine SoCal Championships and end the regular season with a nonleague game against El Toro.
Wednesday : at Costa Mesa, 3:15 p.m.
Thursday : at Dos Pueblos, 6:30 p.m.
Jan. 11-12: at Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions
Jan. 16: Saddleback, 3:15 p.m.
Jan. 18: at Foothill, 3:30 p.m.
Jan. 23: at Estancia, 3:15 p.m.
Jan. 25: Newport Harbor, 3:30 p.m.
Jan. 31-Feb. 2: at Irvine SoCal Championships
Feb. 6: Godinez, 3:15 p.m.
Feb. 8: at El Toro, 3:30 p.m.