The Laguna Beach High boys' soccer team got the best of Saddleback when the teams met in an Orange Coast League opener on Jan. 9. On Tuesday in Santa Ana, the host Roadrunners returned the favor by blanking the visiting Breakers, 4-0.
The loss left Laguna 2-3-2 in league, and 7-3-4 overall. Saddleback improved to 4-2-1 in league and 12-3-3 overall.
"We are very disappointed with this game, not only because of the result, but also at how we responded when we went a couple of goals behind," Laguna Coach Dan Richards said. "The first half wasn't a great game but was pretty even and apart from the goal we conceded from a set piece and the shot we had saved off the line, neither team had many other clear opportunities."
Laguna, which upended Saddleback, then ranked third in CIF Southern Section Division 5, 3-0, when the teams met in the first round of league play, trailed by only 1-0 at the break.
"At halftime we spoke about a couple of changes and made an adjustment to the formation as we knew we had to push numbers forward to try and get an equalizer," Richards said. "The first 10 minutes, the boys did a lot better of what was asked. They had a few good chances, the [Saddleback] keeper had to make a couple saves, and we hit the cross bar.
"When we got hit on the break and they scored their second goal, though, it really deflated us and we never really got going again afterward. It was always likely we could concede more goals after that point when chasing the game."
Laguna previously had played visiting Estancia to a 3-3 draw on Jan. 25. Reece Barton, Willy Wheeler and Jake Hexberg scored for the Breakers.
"The lads did very well in the first half and really took it to Estancia," Richards said. "They followed the game plan perfectly and made it very hard for Estancia to find their rhythm. [Jake] Hexberg, getting such an early goal, helped the team build confidence especially as we were limited to so few attempts in the first meeting. Willy [Wheeler], grabbing a second goal before halftime was well deserved and he did a great job following up after the save from the keeper."
"Despite Reece [Barton] scoring an excellent goal in the second half, we were really penned in for the majority of the second period. Estancia put us under a lot of pressure and never gave up. We started to fatigue badly and were just unable to hold out against the onslaught."
In the first meeting between the teams on Jan. 11, Estancia scored a 1-0 win over the Breakers.
"We definitely did a much better job against Estancia this time around, however, their class told and they showed why they are such a talented team," Richards said of the Eagles. "At this late stage in the season, you can see how hard it is for the boys both physically and mentally, having big, important games coming so quick and fast."
Laguna completes its league and regular-season schedules in the coming week, starting with a 3:15 p.m. game Friday against league-leading Godinez at Centennial Park in Santa Ana. The Breakers return to Centennial Park Tuesday for a 3:15 p.m. game against Calvary Chapel, and play host to Costa Mesa at 6:30 p.m. Thursday.
"Godinez has a great program and traveling away to their field to play them will be a great challenge," Richards said of Friday's match. "We always know what to expect when we play them and there is a good reason why they are currently top of the league.
"With only three games left, it is going to take a huge effort by the players if they want to get to the [CIF] playoffs. Three wins would probably ensure it and is what we are looking to get. Two wins would maybe give us an outside chance, however, we want to keep it in our own hands and not have to rely on other results."
The Breakers turned in strong performances against both Estancia and Saddleback in the past week, and played to tie scores on both occasions in Orange Coast League action.
Laguna played at Godinez Thursday but the score wasn't available at press time.
The Breakers on Tuesday went to Saddleback and rallied for a 2-2 tie against the Roadrunners. Johana Abarca scored Laguna' first goal off an assist from Amy Hewlett, and Audrey Pillsbury scored the tying goal on a solo shot from 30 yards out. The goals completed a comeback from a 2-0 deficit in the second half by the Breakers.
The outcome put Laguna at 1-3-3 in league. The Breakers, who have lost each of their three league matches by a single goal, are 1-0-2 in their last three league outings.