Sports Update: Damato off to USA Water Polo, ending era at Laguna

Ethan Damato, Laguna’s record setting coach, is off to USA Water Polo. Photo courtesy of Laguna athletics

Ethan Damato who built Laguna Girls Water Polo into the most successful high school program in the nation announced last week he has accepted a position with USA Water Polo to work with the women’s national team pipeline teams. Ethan leaves Laguna after 15 full-time seasons where he has assisted and been head coach for all four aquatics programs over his tenure. A 2000 graduate of Laguna Beach High School, Damato was an all-CIF player in Water Polo and started to help the program on a part-time basis well before becoming a full-time assistant at 24 years old.

In Boys Water Polo, he was head coach from 2008 to 2015 and again 2019 to 2021 with a 208-105 overall record, eight league titles. and three Division 3 SSCIF crowns.

In Girls Water Polo, he took his first team as head coach all the way to the Division 2 CIF title and built a program that eventually dominated the sport over the next 13 seasons capturing five Division 1 titles and two state regional crowns.

His all-time girls record is a remarkable 361-56. The National water polo program is based in Orange County so he won’t need to relocate. Damato plans to complete his college degree a goal that coaching high school and club for both boys and girls left no time to accomplish. Damato’s wife Kari is a teacher in the school district and has coached the swimming program since 2009.

Ethan was head coach for Swimming in two seasons capturing the girls league title twice—2008 and 2021.

He will complete his club program through this summer and will remain guiding the off-season high school training program until a replacement can be named.


Baseball (12-12, 4-5)
Breakers Stumble, Hope Remains for At-Large Bid
Laguna faced illness and errors in the first of two games played last week to complete the league season. On April 20, the squad had to shuffle the lineup due to players too ill to play and could not overcome five errors in a 13-2 loss at Skipper Carrillo Field. Last Saturday, the Breakers trailed early but could not generate the runs despite outhitting the Sea Kings 8-3 and lost the contest 4-2 at the CdM field. Laguna must win this past Wednesday at Edison (10-15) to qualify of an at-large spot in the Division 4 playoffs if there are insufficient automatic qualifiers to fill the 32-team brackets as it was in 2021. The final regular season contest is set for Friday at Laguna against Orange County’s No. 4 Huntington Beach (18-8)

SSCIF pairings will be posted on May 2 at
Individual Game and season statistics can be found on Max Preps

Boys Golf (0-12, 0-5)
Laguna lost to Edison 212-169 on April 20 in a non-league match and dropped a league match 232-217 to Fountain Valley played at Rancho San Joaquin Golf Club. Final league match was with Marina on April 27. League individuals are scheduled for May 4 at Mesa Linda Golf Course in Costa Mesa.

Boys Tennis (8-8, 3-3)
Laguna qualified for their 15th consecutive post-season trip with a decisive 11-7 victory over Edison (6-12, 3-3) on the local courts Monday. After losing to the Chargers 10-8 on March 31, the Breakers need to overall out-score the visitors to secure the automatic playoff spot for second place in the Sunset Wave League. Ian MacLaughlin swept his three sets 6-0, 6-0, 6-0 and the doubles team of Jeff and Brad Herkins did the same winning 7-2, 7-6, 6-4. Breakers also picked up three additional single sets and two doubles to round out their match scoring. In their losses, three sets were dropped narrowly 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 so it was the truly the Breakers’ day. Back in March, Laguna lost four sets 7-6 in the match loss showing how close the two teams were.

League individual finals were held on Thursday and the team playoff pairings will be released on May 2. Breakers are in the second of six playoff divisions. The top eight schools compete in the opened division followed by Division 1 through Division 5 bracketed divisions. First round matches are on May 4. Laguna is 95-44 all-time in their 48 previous playoff appearances. Breakers have won four titles – last in 2018.

Girls Lacrosse (JV – 11-3, 8-0) *CORRECTION

Due to a reporting error, the outcome of the Girls Lacrosse JV game on April 21 was incorrectly stated in the April 29 sports update. The Breakers beat Corona del Mar 11-5 on April 21 to capture the Sunset JV title. The Independent regrets the error. Breakers completed their season with a 4-3 loss to St Margaret’s, an 11-5 win over JSerra, and a 15-1 win over the Long Beach Poly Varsity.

Softball (0-13, 0-8)
Laguna lost two more league matches 13-0 to Newport Harbor (17-5, 6-2) and 19-2 to Fountain Valley (8-0, 19-4-1). The season concluded on Tuesday with Corona del Mar (3-7, 2-4) with no score reported.

Girls are Sunset Wave Dual Meet Champions
Breakers concluded their league dual meet season with a sweep of Marina on April 20 with the Boys winning 88-77 and the girls team capturing their third Wave League dual meet title with a 107-53 victory.

Two days later they dropped a non-league meet to Fountain Valley at the Laguna pool with the boys losing 100-60 and the short-handed girls 128-31.

Winners verses Marina:
200 Free – Coleman Judd 1:51.03
200 IM – Cade Anderton 2:11.77
50 Free – Will Kelly 22.10
100 Fly – Coleman Judd 56.81
100 Free – Will Kelly 49.55
200 Free Relay: Sai Bassett, Hutton Ledger, Coleman Judd, Will Kelly 1:31.20
100 Back – George Houldsworth 1:03.11
100 Breast – Cade Anderton 1:08.93
400 Free Relay – Judd, Bassett, Ledger, Kelly 3:22.73

200IM – Jana Jocic 2:16.56
50 Free – Ava Knepper 25.55
100 Free – Ava Knepper 55.43
500 Free – Emerson Hensley 5:42.83
200 Free Relay: Ava Knepper, Addie Hudzinski, Ava Houlahan, Jana Jocic 1:44.52
100 Back – Ava Houlahan 1:06.24
100 Breast – Jana Jocic 1:06.9
400 Free Relay – Knepper, Hudzinski, Houlahan, Jocic 3:52.04

Winners verses Fountain Valley:
200 Free – Coleman Judd 1:51.18
50 Free – Will Kelly 22.11
100 Free – Will Kelly 48.42
200 Free Relay – Coleman Judd, Hutton Ledger, Holden Seybold, Will Kelly 1:29.61
400 Free Relay – Judd, Ledger, Seybold, Kelly 3:19.48
Girls: no winners

This past week Laguna participated in the Sunset Wave League Championships held at Huntington Beach High School. Look for results coming next week. Breakers are in the top Division 1 out of four Swimming/Diving divisions. Prelims are May 4 and finals on May 6 at Mission Viejo. Diving was held April27-29 and the points will contribute to the team totals.

Track & Field
The Wave League meet is Friday. Look for results next week

Boys Volleyball (16-19, 1-5)
Breakers Closeout Season with Wins, Ranked Sixth in D3
Laguna closed out their 51st season on a positive after a rough start on April 19 at Newport Harbor. In the Tars’ final regular season match, the Breakers offered little resistance to the Surf League Champs (22-5, 6-0) and D1’s No. 3 team in a 25-17, 25-14, 25-12 loss.

On April 21 in the 65th meeting between D1 No. 10 Corona del Mar and Laguna started out in similar fashion to the Newport contest as Laguna dropped the first set 25-18 as the Sea Kings were never threatened but eventually Laguna turned the match into a five-set thriller and one of the more epic matches in the 19 seasons of rally scoring. Breakers came out in set two and kept the set close to finally tie at 25. CdM self-destructed with a hitting error and a net-call by their middle to hand the Breakers a 27-25 set win. Set three went back and forth as Laguna squandered set point opportunities and eventually lost 30-28. Laguna never wavered and turned the tables on Corona pulling out a 30-28 win in set four after failing to convert on five set point opportunities.

Set five started all-Laguna as Oskar Hingel’s tough serving led the Breakers to a 5-1 start but the Sea Kings did not quit eventually earning a 14-14 tie. Breakers finally pulled out the match win on consecutive kills by Laird Garcia that sent the home team to a celebrate a very hard-fought contest. Oskar led with 26 kills followed by Riley Gapp with 17 and Laird Garcia with 14. Trey Ovens led on defense with 14 digs while Gavin Zaengle dished out 60 assists, one short of the school match record. Breakers JV also won over CdM 25-14, 26-24.

The following day, Laguna easily swept Garden Grove (24-8) the Golden West League champions and a Division 3 school 25-17, 25-16, 25-14. Oskar had six aces and 12 kills to conclude his career with a great finish.

Breakers did not make the playoffs as no at-large spots were available in Division 3 regardless of a team’s record. Still the coaches awarded Laguna a final season ranking—very rare to see. The Sunset Surf League gets only two automatic berths: Division 1 No. 3 Newport was league champion while Division 1 No. 5 Huntington finished second. Corona del Mar received an at-large berth since Division 1 did not fill their bracket with auto qualifiers. The Division assignments are based on a two-year formula relegating the Breakers to D3 consideration in 2022.

Final Division 3 Poll: 1 – Upland, 2 – Royal, 3 – Mission Viejo, 4 – Aliso Niguel, 5 – Edison, 6 – Laguna Beach, 7 – Capo Valley, 8 – Arcadia, 9 – La Canada, 10 – Trabuco Hills.

Varsity Game and season statistics are on Max Preps.

Looking for the latest Laguna scores, rosters, and schedules? Go to the department website at for the updated schedules and where the scores get posted first for all levels!

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