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Laguna's Golden Girls shine at JOs

Girls' Water Polo

SET Water Polo Club's 16U team, which features six Laguna Beach High members and Coach Damato, wins gold.

August 08, 2013|By Mike Sciacca
(Todd Miller )

Eleven members of the Laguna Beach High girls' water polo program played key roles for two SET (Saddleback-El Toro) Water Polo Club teams that won gold and bronze medals Sunday at the 44th annual USA Junior Olympics.

The SET 16U girls' team, coached by Ethan Damato, head coach of the boys' and girls' water polo teams at Laguna Beach High, claimed gold in the 16U girls' Championship division but had to climb back from a quarterfinal-round loss to take the title.

SET dropped a 9-8 quarterfinal game to Commerce and had to win its next game, in order to reach the semifinals. SET won that game, 9-8, against Santa Barbara. In the semifinals, SET defeated Rose Bowl, 9-4, and went on to face Commerce in a rematch.

This time, SET took a 6-4 victory and the gold medal in the final played at UC Irvine.

SET finished with a tournament record of 7-1.

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The team includes Laguna Beach High players: sophomore-to-be Holly Parker, a goalie who was named the tournament MVP for the division; Brighid Burnes (driver, Jr.), Taylor Julson (driver, Jr.), Haley Evans (driver, Soph.), Natalie Selin (driver, Soph.) and Bella Baldridge (driver/utility, incoming freshman). Trevor Lyle, an assistant coach at Laguna Beach High, is an assistant coach to the SET 16U team.

The SET 18U girls' team won the bronze medal. The squad won six of seven games, its only loss a 13-9 semifinals setback to Huntington Beach. Prior to its only loss, SET defeated the division's eventual gold-medal winning team, Santa Barbara, 10-7, in the quarterfinals.

In the third-place game, SET edged SOCAL Black "A," 7-6, at El Toro High to take bronze.

Five current or former members of the Laguna Beach High girls' water polo program played on the SET 16s team: Lexi Del Toro (attacker, Harvard), Sydney Saxe (defender, Princeton), Mackenzie Baldridge (attacker, UC Santa Barbara), Jenna Knott (goalie, senior), and Makenzie Fischer (utility, Jr.). The team is coached by Brad Schumacher, a gold medal-winning U.S. Olympian in swimming who also played on the U.S. Olympic men's water polo team. Damato is an assistant coach to the team.

"It's the hardest tournament to win and an accomplishment I am very proud of," Damato said of the Junior Olympics which featured the top qualifying teams from across the country. "This year's group of 16s was the most dedicated group I have ever had. I'm not surprised their hard work and commitment paid off.

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