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Talent-Laden Team Starts at the Top

Makenzie Fischer, who led the Breakers with 90 goals last season, looks to them to a CIF title this year.Photo by Robert Campbell

Makenzie Fischer, who led the Breakers with 90 goals last season, looks to them to a CIF title this year.Photo by Robert Campbell

Ranked No. 1 in CIF’s Division I pre-season poll, Laguna Beach’s water polo team is riding a wave of expectations as high as Coach Ethan Damato’s squad is deep.

A plethora of returning talent, including first team all-CIF, all Orange County and league MVP Makenzie Fischer joins three experienced transfers and two gifted freshmen to form the core of the team. They likely will not miss the contributions of ‘13 Laguna graduates and current DI college players Lexie Del Toro (Harvard), Mackenzie Baldridge (UC Santa Barbara) and Sydney Saxe (Princeton).

“With great talent and great teams come high expectations, and we have set a high bar for ourselves,” said Damato. “Very simply, we want to be the best team is high school water polo.”

The team leader in goals last season as a sophomore with 90, Fischer is one of three captains and “one of the best players in the country,” according to Damato.  The Breakers will lean heavily on Fischer’s leadership and play-making ability from her utility position.

The other captains are also the only seniors on the team. Goalie Jenna Knott is a three-year varsity starter and two-time first team all-league selection. Attacker Cara Borkovec, an All-American transfer from Fenwick, Ill., is a high-energy player whose “positive vibe,” Damato said, will serve the Breakers well during the long and grueling season.

Defender Taylor Julson, a junior transfer from El Toro, will play a key role at both ends of the pool. And second team all-CIF Mia Salvini, who scored 34 goals last season as a freshman for DII finalist Mater Dei, will compete for a starting position after Jan. 6, when she fulfills the CIF transfer requirement.

And that’s just the beginning.

Damato’s deep squad also includes freshmen and Junior Olympic All-Americans Aria Fischer, who can play any where in the pool from her utility position, and Bella Baldridge, a lefty attacker who will be tough to defend. Both are slated to start.

Other key players who will see plenty of action are junior attackers Haley Evans and Brighid Burnes, and sophomores Holly Parker, a goalie, and attacker Natalie Selin. All four, along with Julson and Baldridge, were members of Damato’s SET 16U girls’ club team, which captured gold in August at the 44th annual USA Junior Olympics in Irvine.

With speed, depth and versatility a given, Damato looks to improve the team’s 5-on-6 defense and 6-on-5 counter attack. “That is where the big games are won and lost,” he said.

The goal for every Damato-coached team is always the same: win a CIF title. There’s no doubt the Breakers have the talent. But can they fend off the season-long assault on their number one pre-season CIF ranking.  “I think everyone will be gunning for us this year,” said Damato, “and we need to bring our best every day to training and games.”

Laguna opened the season at home against Dana Hills on Tuesday, Dec. 3, followed by another home game against Santiago on Thursday, Dec. 5.

 

 

 #

Player

Grade

Position

1

Jenna Knott

12

   G

1A

Holly Parker

10

  G

2

Daniela Lucidi

11

    ATT

3

Haley Evans

10

   ATT

4

Makenzie Fischer

11

   UTL

5

Brighid Burnes

11

 ATT

6

Natalie Selin

10

  ATT

7

Taylor Julson

11

  DEF

8

Cara Borkovec

12

  UTL

9

Ally Jochim

10

  DEF

10

Mia Salvini

10

  UTL

12

Aria Fischer

9

  UTL

13

Bella Baldridge

9

LH ATT

 

 No. 3 Haley Evans accounted for three assists and two steals against Dana Hills on Tuesday, Dec. 3. Photo courtesy of Todd Miller


No. 3 Haley Evans accounted for three assists and two steals against Dana Hills on Tuesday, Dec. 3.
Photo courtesy of Todd Miller

 

 

 

 

 

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