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Time comes for Laguna

Laguna Beach boys' water polo team fulfills vow, wins first CIF championship.

November 25, 2010|By Mike Sciacca, michael.sciacca@latimes.com
  • Laguna Beach players celebrate after beating Damien, 11-9, to win the Division 3 CIF Southern Section Water Polo Championship at the William J. Woollett Aquatics Center in Irvine on Saturday.
Laguna Beach players celebrate after beating Damien,… (KENT TREPTOW, Coastline…)

"Our Time."

It was a simple maxim the Laguna Beach boys' water polo team lived by throughout the course of the CIF Southern Section playoffs.

Those simple words are what inspired the Breakers, who were zoned in on one thing: winning a championship.

"It was our mantra," Laguna Coach Ethan Damato said. "The kids were focused on the playoffs and have been all season long. It's what drove this team."

Saturday at the William Woollett Jr. Aquatic Center in Irvine, it was Laguna's time and for the first time, the boys' water polo program can call itself CIF champion.

In a showdown between No. 1 Laguna Beach and No. 2 Damien, the Breakers led from start to finish what they set out to do all season: win a Division 3 title. They did so by posting an 11-9 victory against the Spartans.

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It was the third meeting of the season between the teams, with each owning a win before Saturday's title match.

"We made history!," Laguna junior attacker Nicky Brunner exclaimed, thrusting both fists airborne while surrounded by his ecstatic teammates poolside after their milestone victory.

The Breakers (27-6) forced Damien into a game of catch-up from the start by jumping out to a 3-0 lead.

They held that three-goal advantage (4-1) after one quarter.

"I thought we really came to play tonight, from the opening whistle to the final horn," Damato said. "We jumped on them early and kept the lead.

"I thought Spencer Dodson and Nolan McConnell were spectacular. They had huge goals and carried us on their shoulders. Erik Henrikson had another outstanding game in goal and that amazing goal he scored was a great momentum builder for us. The entire team earned this. It's a great group of kids."

Damien (24-7) got off the first two shots of the game but Henrikson, who was spectacular with a 15-save performance in a Nov. 17 semifinal win over Mira Costa, blocked both shots taken by Spartans utility player Johnny Beal. With 2:18 left in the quarter, Laguna senior attacker Jack Clark scored off a nice pump fake. His shot glanced off the cross-bar and fluttered into the cage to make give Laguna a 1-0 lead.

Moments later, the left-handed McConnell scored on a power shot from the right side to push the lead to 2-0. Less than a minute later, Henrikson came up with another block and Dodson moved in from the left side to rip a shot past Damien goalie Kyle Garwick for a 3-0 lead.

It was Dodson's 74th goal of the season.

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