May 25, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

Laguna Beach overcomes early deficit and tops Foothill 7-6 for CIF Division 1 title

Laguna Beach players celebrate holding the CIF championship plaque Saturday. (Photo Tim Burt, OC Sports Zone)

Laguna Beach High’s girls water polo team enjoyed another championship jump in the pool Saturday evening.

But the Breakers had to rally from a three-goal deficit in the first half to defeat Foothill 7-6 in a thrilling Division 1 title match in front of a capacity crowd at the William Woollett Jr. Aquatics Complex in Irvine.

Laguna Beach won the 2019 crown defeating Corona del Mar 9-8 in overtime.

On Saturday, the Breakers didn’t have to go overtime, but they did have to overcome a 6-4 deficit after three quarters.

“It’s not exactly the way we wanted it to go,” said Laguna Beach Coach Ethan Damato. “We’ll take the ending for sure, right? True to form with his team, they’re a very resilient group, I’m not surprised at all.”

Junior Emma Lineback, who led her team with four goals, helped the Breakers come back in the fourth quarter. First, she made a penalty shot to tie it with 5:05 left. Then, she put Laguna Beach ahead for the first time with a goal with 3:18.

“Two years in a row, last year she did the same thing for us as a sophomore and this year, she sparked that run,” Damato said. “There is nobody I had more confidence in than taking that penalty than her in the fourth and obviously to get the go-ahead. She’s a great shooter, she’s been doing that all year for us.”

The Breakers were able to blank Foothill the rest of the way. The Knights drew an exclusion with about 40 seconds left but were unable to convert.

Shortly after that, the Breakers celebrated.

“Being able to come here and play here and having the title really means a lot to our team,” Lineback said. “Because we worked so hard all year round, we play for each other. That’s one of our biggest mottos is to play for the girls next to you and I think being able to win for our seniors and for our team meant a lot.”

Lineback was excited to get the score on the penalty kick.

“I have to credit Nicole (Struss) because she earned it,” Lineback said. “We never got down on each other and we never lost faith in each other. At the half we said we had to get it together and play for each other and we just came out and left it all in the pool.”

Foothill got off to a fast start by taking a 1-0 lead after one quarter. Then the Knights extended their lead to 4-1 with 2:21 remaining in the first half on goals by Erin Kim and Julia Janov.

But the Knights (24-4) could not hold off the fourth quarter charge by Laguna Beach.

“We’ve done it three times in a row against Foothill,” said Damato, the Laguna Beach coach. “Foothill is a great team. They’ve had our number in the first three quarters of all of our games we played against them. I think we found a way to get stops and keep it within striking distance.

“Then we made some big plays and played great defense in the fourth quarter. This group never gives up. We’re a quick strike team and we can get goals in a hurry. This is, I think, the most exciting win I’ve ever been a part of.”

Janov had three goals and Kim two goals to lead Foothill. Morgan Van Alphen added two goals for Laguna Beach.

-Tim Burt, OC Sports Zone;