The 47-year drought is finally over as the Boys Water Polo squad took care of business, defeating Damien 11-9 in the Southern Section CIF Division III finals. The match was held last Saturday evening at the Woollett Center in Irvine in front of a vocal and enthusiastic crowd.
The Breakers (27-6) had met the Spartans (24-7) twice this season losing 16-15 on October 22 at the La Verne school and defeating them 9-7 in the finals of Servite’s Hank Vellencamp II Tournament on October 30.
The Breakers jumped out to an early 3-0 lead but Damien regained their composure scoring late in the first period to trim the lead to two points. The Spartans pulled to within one goal before halftime and four other times in the second half but the Breakers never folded and Damien could not catch Laguna.
A big play in the match came at the buzzer of the third period as the Spartans thought they had closed the margin to one goal trailing 8-7 only to have Erik Henrikson, the Laguna keeper, score a goal with a half-court shot at the buzzer.
This alone deflated the Damien momentum as they entered the final period.
Spartans had concentrated their defensive efforts on Laguna’s Nolan McConnell but the junior still scored four goals and provided an effective decoy on offense. Spencer Dodson had three scores while Jack Clark, Nicky Brunner, and Samer Alkateb each had a goal. Henrikson was credited with 11 saves.
The victory was Laguna’s first in water polo after trips to the finals in 1974 (AAA) and 1996 (Division II). CIF Water Polo playoffs are organized into seven divisions of five to seven leagues, each based on the strength of the teams comprising it. Breakers have been Division III the past three seasons as well as in 1987 and 1992-93. Laguna is by far the smallest public school in the top three competitive water polo divisions.
Laguna got to the finals with a defensive 5-2 win over Mira Costa last Wednesday, November 17 at the Woollett Center. In the lowest scoring contest of the season, the Mustangs controlled the tempo but could not penetrate the goal keeping of Erik Henrikson who repeatedly stopped Costa’s shots.
The match opened with an early score but Laguna came back in the second period as Tyler Mancusco came off the bench to surprise the Mustangs with three goals in the second period. Costa tried to come back but Henrikson was stopping everything they threw including a penalty shot in the third period. Spencer Dodson made the score 4-1 mid way through the fourth period on a power play, and McConnell followed quickly with another goal to ice the game. The match was a frustrating experience for Costa who had won three titles in the past 11 seasons.