Coming off a spirited opening-round victory in the CIF Southern Section Division 4 girls' soccer playoffs, the Laguna Beach High Breakers had the rare luxury of hosting a second postseason game Wednesday. Backed by a supportive home crowd, the Breakers were looking to register another playoff win, like the one they had scored five days earlier against Ontario Chaffey.
In a low-scoring contest at Guyer Field, Laguna was unable to generate any scoring against visiting Phelan Serrano, and the 10th-ranked Breakers came just short in a 1-0 loss to the fourth-ranked Diamondbacks.
The game's only score came roughly eight minutes into the contest, when a bad-bounce deflection trickled into the Laguna net.
"It was a strange play," Laguna Coach Bill Rolfing said. "The collision between their best player (Kellsie Gleason) and our goalie (junior Kylie George), then the ball deflecting off a bunch of players and into the goal, was just one of those things.
"We played so well, particularly in the second half. We had more shots on goal than they did, but we just couldn't get the ball into the net."
Laguna, champion of the Orange Coast League, earned the right to face Serrano by blanking visiting Chaffey, 2-0, Feb. 21. Rolfing called the win a "well-balanced match" for the Breakers
"The defense once again stood solid and denied the Chaffey attack to gain momentum," he said. "Pressure up high in the offensive third of the field allowed [Laguna] to control 80% of the play. The nerves of a first-round match disappeared quickly once the offense got in motion.
A first-half corner kick by Laguna freshman Regan Caraher was headed in to the Chaffey net at the 30-minute mark. The score would give the Breakers a 1-0 lead at halftime. After withstanding a few offensive threats in the final 15 minutes by Chaffey, the Breakers sealed the win with an outstanding individual effort by Caraher, who volleyed a deflection into the Chaffey net from 18 yards for a 2-0 lead with three minutes remaining.
Sophomore Katelyn Carballo, junior Audrey Pillsbury and senior Johana Abarca sparked Laguna's midfield play with junior Paige Vitolo applying pressure up top with freshmen Greer Jacobs and Christine Johnson. The Breakers defense was led by George in goal and the sophomores Summer Stanaland and Chiara Noppenberger, junior Amy Hewlett, senior Tessa Hopper and freshman Autumn Geil.
The loss ended a nine-game unbeaten streak for Laguna, which finished the year 13-6-4, the 13 wins establishing a new program record for victories in a single season. In their final nine games of the season, the Breakers, behind a strong defense and the play of George and Kara Dunne-Dombrink in goal, allowed only two goals.
"The girls had a great season, a great run," Rolfing said. "We stumbled a little bit out of the gate in league, but we won some close games and were able to pick up some confidence. We won a league championship and reached the second round of CIF. That is something the girls can be proud of. Things look very bright for our program."
Two days after taking down Santa Monica Crossroads on penalty kicks, the Breakers' run in the CIF Southern Section Division 5 playoffs came to an end Tuesday at Baldwin Park. The Valle Vista League champion and seventh-ranked Braves scored a 4-0 home victory over the Breakers.
Tenth-ranked Laguna trailed, 2-0, at the half.
"We can have no complaints about the result," Laguna Coach Dan Richards said. "Baldwin Park was simply the better team and we wish them well with the rest of their playoff run.
"It was always going to be tough going on the road against a top team in the division and you can see why they won their league. Their movement in the final third was excellent and we never came to terms with it. You also need a bit of luck in any season and unfortunately ours definitely ran out this week."
The Breakers advanced to the second round by winning its playoff opener Feb. 20 after slipping past visiting Crossroads (Alpha League No. 2). The teams were tied, 2-2 both through regulation and overtime, and Laguna advanced on a penalty-kick shootout, 4-2, at Guyer Field.
During regulation, Chris Tellez and Mike Santana scored for the Breakers. In the decisive penalty kicks phase, Tellez, Jake Hexberg, Harrison Gregory and Zach Jacobs converted for Laguna with Jacobs' goal cinching the win.
Crossroads missed its first penalty-kick attempt, and Laguna goalie Dante Amodeo came up with a big save on the Roadrunners' fourth attempt.
"You could definitely tell this was a playoff game," Richards said. "It was the first time that any of our players have played a home game in CIF and I'm sure they learned a lot from it. There was a great crowd and the whole program really appreciates the community coming out to support us.
"The result was always going to be the most important thing and getting to the next round is great for the lads."
The Breakers end their season with a 11-7-4 record, They went 7-2-1 in Orange Coast League play, good for second place.
"We knew from day one that our roster was always a little thin and the key to our success would be to have them all stay healthy and injury free throughout the year," Richards said. "Having so many starters injured and coming down with illness in the build up to the [Baldwin Hills] game definitely made a tall order that much more difficult.
"I'm still extremely proud of all the boys this year and they should certainly not hang their heads. For the fourth consecutive year the program's league record has improved and all of the team is a huge part of that. Our graduating seniors should all be commended for their hard work and efforts as they have all been a huge part of the program's continual improvement. I'm delighted that so many of our players have been recognized by the Orange Coast League and [that] shows the large amount of respect our opponents have for us."