Girls water polo defends CIF Title


On Feb. 22, the LBHS girls water polo team faced off against Foothill High School at Woollett Aquatic Center in Irvine for the Division-1 CIF championship. The Breakers ultimately won the match 7-6 after trailing for most of the game. Junior Emma Lineback led the team with four goals, while senior Morgan Van Alphen and junior Jessica Rose combined for three goals as well.

“As a team, we worked extremely hard, and I think that, along with the depth of our team, was the main reason for our team’s success this year. We practice before and after school for hours on end every day and work tirelessly to get better,” said junior Rachael Carver.

Coming into the CIF title game, Foothill was the only team to defeat Laguna in the regular season. It was fitting that the two powerhouses would compete for the championship.

“I think we always feel pressure, but I would be lying if I said there isn’t some extra pressure in a CIF semi or final,” said head coach Ethan Damato. “Foothill was a tough opponent all season, and we knew we needed to play well to beat them.”

Late in the first half, Laguna was in a 4-1 hole as Foothill’s attack was overwhelming. Laguna closed the gap, only trailing 6-4 by the end of the third quarter. 

Lineback led the attack in the fourth quarter where she netted three of her four goals. Junior Nicole Struss aided in two of the fourth quarter goals by drawing a penalty and an exclusion.

After leading for the first time in the game, the Breakers turned their defense up another level to maintain the lead. Carver and junior Molly Renner had key steals late in the game to maintain their lead. Their stifling defense late in the game allowed the celebrations to begin once the final whistle blew.

“We all stepped up when we needed it most throughout the season, and we did so against Foothill. It truly was a team effort,” said Struss.

In the last seven seasons, the girls have won five CIF-SS Division 1 championships. This culture of winning has been instilled in these girls since a very young age.

“I think that the culture of winning honestly has come from the age-group program. These girls have won a lot before they even got to high school. I would like to think that we as a high school program have established a culture where we value hard work and competing every day,” said Damato.

In addition to their winning culture, their remarkable team chemistry played a major role in their success this season. Most of the varsity team has played together year round since elementary school.

“The bond that we all share with each other is so special. There is no other high school team out there that has had the same group of girls playing with each other since age 10. That bond translates in the way that we are able to play off of each other and work together in our games,” said Lineback.

The team’s dominance was historic. Boasting a school-record 33 wins, an undefeated league record, and the CIF-SS Division 1 and State Regional championships, this season will go down as one of Laguna’s greatest of all time.

“It’s hard to compare teams from year to year, but I would say this is one of the strongest teams and runs we have ever had. We have only lost 2 games in the last 2 years, and we bring a lot of players back next season. It’s been a special run these last couple of years with this group, and I’m excited to see what next year holds for us,” said Damato.