EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the second of two parts. The first part of the prep year in review ran in the June 21 issue of the Coastline Pilot.
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 during the school year.
The girls' water polo team reached the elite eight of the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs and just missed landing a spot in the final four. The sixth-ranked Breakers reached the quarterfinal round where they were edged in overtime, 11-10, by fourth-ranked Newport Harbor.
Laguna, which was perfect in Orange Coast League play for the seventh straight year under Coach Ethan Damato, ended its season 19-10.
"I really think this year's team overachieved," Damato said. "Our improvement since the summer when we first started together, has been unbelievable 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 Championships) 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."
Sophomore Makenzie Fischer was named MVP of the OCL. First-team members included seniors Lexi Del Toro, Sydney Saxe and Mackenzie Baldridge, and junior goalie Jenna Knott. Sophomore Brighid Burnes and freshmen Natalie Selin and Haley Evans made second team.
Fischer and Del Toro later were named to the Girls' Water Polo All CIF Southern Section Division 1 team.
Laguna made its way into postseason play in boys' soccer after the Breakers received an at-large berth to the CIF Southern Section Division 5 playoff field. They had their season come to an end in a 2-1 wild-card game loss at Diamond Bar.
Laguna finished the season 9-4-5. Senior Reece Barton was named Offensive co-MVP of the Orange Coast League.
"This is the third year in a row the team has improved both its league and overall record and the boys should be very proud of all their efforts throughout the season," Coach Dan Richards said.
A young Laguna girls' soccer team came up big down the stretch of the regular season to also earn a spot in postseason play. After finishing in third place in the Orange Coast League, the Breakers opened CIF Southern Section play with a 5-0 home shutout of Cerritos in a Division 4 wild-card game.
Their season ended in a 3-0, first-round loss at Culver City where the Breakers lost goalie Kylie George to injury only 30 minutes into the match. 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 successful [varsity] campaign cannot go forward without mentioning the depth and strength of the soccer program," said Coach Bill RolfingÖ, 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."
In a year's time, the Laguna girls' basketball team went from winless, to playoff bound.
The Breakers, under Coach Mark Lewis, tied for third place in the OCL but won a playoff game from Costa Mesa to earn an automatic berth to the CIF Southern Section Division 4A playoffs. Although they dropped a first-round contest at No. 8-seed Brentwood, the Breakers won 19 of 25 games and set the program record for most wins in a single season.
Other program records the team set were for consecutive wins to start a season (six), consecutive wins (seven), and won their its first-ever tournament during the regular season.
"This year our team experienced one of the biggest turnarounds," Lewis said. "From 0-18 last season, to a third-place finish in league, champions of two tournaments, and a berth in CIF, this team has truly transformed itself into a winner.