Laguna's semifinal opponent was Commerce, which last year defeated the locals, 7-6, to win the girls' 12U championship at the tournament. This time, Laguna turned the tables and led the entire way in an 8-5 victory.
Having previously dispatched of the Santa Barbara "B" team three days earlier, Laguna met Santa Barbara "A," the top-seed in the division, in Sunday's final at the William Woollett Jr. Aquatic Center in Irvine. Laguna, the No. 2-seed, jumped out to a 1-0 lead, but Santa Barbara came back to win the title with an 11-5 win.
Jessie Holechek and Yoshi Anderson of the Laguna Beach High aquatics program played on the Huntington Beach Water Polo Club girls' 18-Under "A" team that won a national title Sunday at the 2011 USA Water Polo Junior Olympics in Irvine.
Both played a key role in Huntington's drive to the championship, which it earned by defeating perennial power Santa Barbara, 6-5, in the Platinum division final at the William Woollett Jr. Aquatic Center.
It's the first time a Huntington Beach Water Polo Club team has won gold at the national tournament, which was held for the 42nd time, girls' 18U assistant coach Eric Benson said.
"They've (Santa Barbara) had our number the last two or so years, so it's great to come through on the national stage," Benson said. "This tournament marks the end of the season and the final time that these girls will play together, so it's great to see them go out on top.
"Jessie and Yoshi are two great kids with great work ethics. They both embrace the team concept that we preach and are invaluable assets."
Holechek, who graduated from Laguna Beach in June, will play at Princeton University this year. Anderson begins her senior year at Laguna Beach in September.
In other finishes for Laguna Beach Water Polo Club teams at the Junior Olympics tournament: the girls' 14U team went 5-2 and reached the third-place game, where it fell, 14-6, to San Diego Shores; the boys' 14U team went 5-3 and lost to Trojan, 16-15, in the 15th-place game; the boys' 12U team went 5-4 and lost, 13-12, to Trojan in the 15th-place game; and the Mixed (coed) 10-and-Under team went 5-3 and defeated Santa Barbara, 8-7, in the ninth-place game.