So far, so good, for the Laguna Beach High girls' water polo team.
Having entered the season with a top ranking — No. 1, in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 poll, the Breakers have had to earn that lofty status in the first few weeks of the season. In their last three outings, they have faced teams that are ranked among the best in both Division 1 and 2.
Wednesday at the Laguna pool, the Breakers took on Mater Dei in a key nonleague match. The Monarchs entered the game with a No. 2 ranking in Division 2, and were undefeated.
Not any more.
Laguna rallied from a one-goal deficit to outscore Mater Dei, 3-1, in the fourth quarter, and went on to emerge with an 8-7 victory. The score was knotted, 3-3, at halftime, but the Monarchs (6-1) would take a 6-5 lead into the final quarter.
The Breakers trailed by two goals on five different occasions in the game, including once in the fourth quarter, but Laguna Coach Ethan Damato said his team "never stopped fighting."
Laguna junior defender Taylor Julson tied for game-high scoring honors with three goals. Sophomore defender Ally Jochim and sophomore attacker Natalie Selin both scored twice, and senior utility Cara Borkovec scored once.
Sophomore Holly Parker and senior Jenna Knott combined for 14 saves in the cage.
The Breakers showed their roster depth Wednesday, overcoming the absence of two key players, sisters Makenzie and Aria Fischer, to get the win and improve to 4-0 overall.
Makenzie Fischer played this week on the USA Women's Senior National Team at the World Cup Qualifying Tournament, and Aria Fischer had her tonsils removed earlier in the week, Damato said.
"We knew in order to beat a very good Mater Dei team, the rest of our girls would need to step up and fill a bigger role," Damato said. "Cara Borkovec and Ally Jochim did a great job matching up with Mater Dei's best girls, and both scored big goals for us, as well.
"In the second half we played great team defense and were able to keep the game close going into the fourth [quarter]."
Key defensive stops in the fourth quarter by the Breakers led to big, fastbreak goals. The winning score came with 3:20 left in the game on a fastbreak score by Selin off a feed from freshman attacker Bella Baldridge.
"Our goalies did a great job," Damato said. "Jenna [Knott] had some big stops in the first half, and Holly [Parker] was outstanding, racking up 11 saves in two quarters of play."
Laguna is idle until Dec. 31 when it takes on San Clemente in a 10 a.m. nonleague game at Capistrano Valley High.
The Breakers went to Irvine High Tuesday and claimed a 1-0 shutout victory over the Vaqueros in nonleague play.
In a performance that Coach Bill Rolfing said was a "much-improved passing game," with "good structure at the back and better ball possession" than his team showed last week at the Ocean View Winter Classic, the Breakers defense allowed only four shots on goal and goalie Kylie George registered her third shutout of the season.
Sophomore forward Katelyn Carballo scored from 20 yards out off a clearance by an Irvine defender. Pressure on the Irvine defense by Laguna forwards Paige Vitolo and Greer Jacobs led to the scoring opportunity.