Laguna Beach’s boys water polo team (25-6) defeated La Verne’s Damien High School (24-7) Saturday with a 14-8 victory in a repeat of last year’s championship match at the Woollett Center in Irvine. Last year’s battle was much closer at 11-9 but this year’s victory could have slipped away if the Breakers didn’t re-focus to seal the win.
Laguna opened with a quick 2-0 lead on a pair of Nolan McConnell goals in less than two minutes into the first period. Damien scored at the 4:33 mark but Laguna countered to take a 4-1 lead into period two.
Breakers got a little sloppy in the second stanza with some poor shot selections and somewhat complacent play as Damien closed to within two at 6-4 midway through the period. After that the Breakers seemed to answer any time the Chargers appeared to spring to life. Damien was down only by three at the end of the third quarter and seemed to finally have some real momentum after key Laguna defender, Riley Thomas, fouled out at the end of the period.
The fourth quarter drama however ended quickly as Tommy Renner fired a goal less than a minute into the final period for an 11-7 Breaker lead. Nicky Bruner added a score followed by a skip shot from Renner and it was essentially over at 13-7 at the final quarter midway point. The packed crowd of Laguna fans enjoyed the final minutes as the celebration began.
The past two seasons have given Laguna polo their first two titles in the 48-year history of the program.
Breakers will probably return to D-II next season ending their four-year ride in D-III. Breakers were classified D-II from 1994 to 2001 and for 2006-2007 making it to the finals in 1996.
Overall, Laguna athletics has now won 37 section titles since capturing their first sports banner in 1946.
Laguna: 4-5-1-4, 14; Damien 1-4-2-1, 8
Scoring: Nolan McConnell, McConnell, Damien, Riley Thomas, Camron Hauer, Damien, Thomas, McConnell, Damien, Damien, McConnell, Damien, Thomas, Hauer, Damien, McConnell, Tommy Renner, Nicky Brunner, Renner, McConnell, Damien.