High expectations despite a young team
For most high school coaches, losing five all-CIF performers, including your top four scorers and best defender to graduation would signal a rebuilding year. For Laguna Beach High’s Ethan Damato, it’s just a minor bump in a stellar five-year career that includes more than 100 victories and two CIF titles in 2010 and ‘11. “We want to get back to the championship game and play for a title,” said the former OC Register and CIF coach of the year.
Heading into his sixth season at the helm, the confident Damato will look to a core group of six returning juniors and seniors, and two newcomers who will share time at the center position.
Junior and third-year varsity member Jack Dodson (36 goals, 47 assists, 42 steals last season) will lead the way from his utility position. “He is probably our overall best player and most versatile,” said Damato.
Joining Dodson will be Cade Baldridge (25, 16, 35), a driver and one of the team’s best shooters who started every game last season as a sophomore. The speedy Baldridge will also handle the sprints for Damato’s Breakers.
Junior Nolan Del Toro (17, 14, 15), another fast swimmer will look to score more from his starting driver position.
Senior Trevor Collins (14, 17, 21) should also see some time at the driver position, and junior Aki Anderson (14, 22, 22), the Breakers’ most consistent player according to Damato, will provide help down low as the team’s defender.
Rian Atherton (16, 1, 8) a senior, and sophomore Jakob Colladay (5, 4, 6), who both saw limited action last year, are expected to share time at the center position this season. “Rian is our strongest guy,” said Damato. “He is working hard and will cause problems for our opponents.”
Junior Garret Hartley (6 games, 29 saves) takes over in goal for third team all-CIF Maxx McCarter.
Juniors Trent Sadler (9, 3, 6) Greyson Benson (8, 6, 7) and Conor Hauer (18, 23, 14) give Damato depth off the bench.
Laguna opens the season ranked fourth in CIF behind Agoura, Murrietta Valley and Foothill in that order. One of the Breakers’ biggest challenges this year will be their size, or lack of it. The top teams in their division are “a lot bigger than we are,” said Damato.
But what the lack in size they make up for in speed, smarts and superior teamwork. “We are really fast and play at a very high tempo. We pass the ball very well, play team ball and have great team depth,” said Damato. “We may be young, but these guys know the game and know how I want them to play.”
The Breakers first game is Friday, Sept. 13 at home against Villa Park at 4:00 pm.
Girls Golf: Greening Up the Short Game
The girls return their top five starters from last season, including senior and team captain Jackie McMahon and junior Marykate Quellmalz, who were both first team all-league last season, and junior Leslie Dwight, who earned second team all-league honors.
Coach Scott Finn’s experienced Breakers squad looks to improve on their last year’s 6-6 record and second place Orange Coast League finish and contend for a title this season. To do so, they we need to improve on their short game and putting.
Estancia looks to be league favorites. However, both Calvary Chapel and Laguna could present a formidable challenge to the defending champion Eagles.
To compete for a title, the Breakers will need to improve their short game, especially putting. Inconsistent green play cost Laguna five to six strokes per match and several wins last season, according to assistant coach Sean Quigley. “Honestly, as a team last year we were not a good putting team,” he said. “Our best player last year averaged two putts per hole, and it went down from there.”
Laguna’s strength lies in its experience and depth. Although they don’t have that one dominant player who can consistently post low scores, “we do have several players, including all of our starters, who are capable of playing consistently at an above average level,” said Quigley.
Other starters for the Breakers are seniors Jamie Hendrickson and Audrey Curtis and sophomore Murphy Thompson. Senior Mandi Wisbaum and sophomore Hailey McCullogh, round out the varsity squad.
Laguna opened its season with a home and home against Sage Hill. The first match was at Ben Brown, Laguna’s home course, on Tuesday, Sept. 10. The second match was Thursday, Sept. 12 at Strawberry Farms in Irvine.
The Breakers next play Aliso Niguel at Aliso Viejo Country Club on Tuesday, Sept. 17 at 2:30 pm.