When Laguna Beach and Newport Harbor get together in the pool for girls' water polo competition, the action almost never seems to lack drama.
Saturday at the Laguna pool, it was turned up a notch.
The sixth-ranked Breakers and fourth-ranked Sailors went up against each other for a second time this season in a CIF Southern Section Division 1 quarterfinal showdown where a berth in the semifinals awaited the winner. After a deadlock through regulation, it was Newport that survived to move on, following an 11-10 overtime victory.
The Sailors had won the regular-season meeting between the teams, 10-4, also at the Laguna pool.
Newport will take on rival Corona del Mar for the Division 1 title on Saturday. The Sailors advanced to the final by knocking out top-seeded Santa Barbara, 8-5, in Wednesday's semifinals.
In Saturday's game, Laguna took a 5-3 lead in the first quarter and led, 6-5, at the half. The Breakers maintained a one-point edge, 8-7, through three quarters. The score was tied late in the fourth but Newport Harbor took its first lead of the game, 9-8, with 35 seconds left in regulation. Laguna sophomore Makenzie Fischer answered by scoring the tying goal seconds later, and the teams went to overtime.
Fischer was outstanding, scoring a game-best six goals four of which she netted in the opening quarter. Senior Lexi Del Toro scored three goals and senior Sydney Saxe scored once. Senior Mackenzie Baldridge had a team-high three assists and five steals, and junior goalie Jenna Knott had 11 saves.
Saturday marked the fourth time over the past two seasons that Newport and Laguna have played games that have gone to overtime. The Sailors won each of those games, and is 6-0, overall, against the Breakers during that span.
"I couldn't be more proud of the way the girls played," Laguna Coach Ethan Damato said. "We played with intensity, executed our game plan and played a great game. We battle for four-plus quarters and I thought we did everything we needed to do, to win."
Laguna, which went through another season unscathed in the Orange Coast League to win the championship, ended the year 19-10.
"I really think this year's team overachieved," Damato said. "Our improvement since the summer when we first started together, to now, has been unbelievable. We lost to Newport, 19-4, or something like that, in the summer. We finished the year ranked in the top six in both the [Orange] county and the division. We finished sixth in the top three high school tournaments (Newport Holiday Cup, Santa Barbara, Irvine Southern California Championship) in the country, and we battled with the best in the country.
"I am very happy with the effort of our seniors and with the experience our underclassmen received throughout the year. We plan on being back in semis next year with a chance at a D-1 championship, and who knows, maybe win the whole thing one of these days."
The Breakers lost an all-league player in the early stages of their CIF Southern Section Division 4 first-round game at Culver City Feb. 14, then played the host Centaurs close throughout but eventually were eliminated from postseason play with a 3-0 loss.
All-Orange Coast League sophomore goalkeeper Kylie George was injured only 30 minutes into the match. George was replaced by Maddy Kristensen whose first match playing keeper came in playoff competition.
Laguna Coach Bill Rolfing said the "real story" of the match was a Breakers offense, which "narrowly missed" several scoring opportunities in the second half, led by the freshman quartet of Chiara Noppenberger, Katelyn Carballo, Summer Stanaland and Hannah Budroe. Rolfing also praised the play of team co-captain, senior defender Sarah Hewlett who made a "miraculous," goal line-clearing play at the end of the match to cap her stand out four-year career.
The setback put an end to an eight-game unbeaten streak for Laguna which reached the CIF Southern Section playoffs for the fourth time in five years.
The Breakers had advanced to face Culver City by scoring an impressive, 5-0 shutout of Cerritos in a wild-card game Feb. 12.
Laguna, which finished in third place in the OCL, completed an 8-8-7 season.
"The successful [varsity] campaign cannot go forward without mentioning the depth and strength of the soccer program," said Rolfing, who noted that the Laguna JV team, coached by Ed Ornelas, went undefeated in OCL play to win a championship, and the frosh/soph team, coached by Laura Yale, fielded one of its "strongest teams to date."