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Water Polo

Laguna Beach Lives Up to No. 1 Ranking, Wins Tournament of Champions

San Marcos beats Dos Pueblos for third place

Sophie Trumbull makes one of her 11 saves for San Marcos in a 9-7 win over Dos Pueblos in the third-place game of the Tournament of Champions. Click to view larger
Sophie Trumbull makes one of her 11 saves for San Marcos in a 9-7 win over Dos Pueblos in the third-place game of the Tournament of Champions. (Barry Punzal / Noozhawk photo)

Olympic water polo gold medalist Aria Fischer said before the tournament that her Laguna Beach High team was focused on winning the Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions.

Fischer and the CIF Division 1 top-ranked Breakers got the job done on Saturday. They suffocated Mater Dei’s big shooters and beat the Monarchs 11-5 in the championship game at the Elings Aquatic Center.

It was Laguna Beach’s third title in the last four years and makes the unbeaten Breakers (14-0) the odds-on favorites to capture the CIF Division 1 title. The last three ToC winners have done it: Orange Lutheran last year and Laguna Beach in 2015 and 2014.

Fischer, who scored one goal, contributed with assists and tough defense in the final, was named the tournament MVP.

In the third-place game, Paige Hauschild scored five goals to lead San Marcos past rival Dos Pueblos 9-7. It was the Royals’ best tournament finish in program history.

Santa Barbara took 11th place with a 4-3 overtime win over Murrieta Valley. Kai McGeoy scored the game winner for the Dons.

In the final, Laguna Beach scored three unanswered goals and goalie Thea Walsh blocked a pair of Mater Dei shots as the Breakers broke a 2-2 tie and took 5-2 lead at halftime.

The Breakers converted a Isabel Riches steal into a goal by Claire Sonne to go up 6-2 early in the third period before Mater Dei scored on a penalty shot by Bella Baia at the 3:53 mark.

Laguna Beach responded with another three-goal run by Sonne, Sophia Lucas and Bella Baldridge. Baldridge scored on a quick shot after a beautiful entry pass from Fischer to make it a 9-3 game late in the third.

Jewel Roemer of Dos Pueblos, right, and Nicole Kresich of Mater Dei get locked up in a battle for position. Click to view larger
Jewel Roemer of Dos Pueblos, right, and Nicole Kresich of Mater Dei get locked up in a battle for position. (Barry Punzal / Noozhawk photo)

Laguna Beach advanced to the final with a 15-6 win over San Marcos. The Breakers held the Royals without a shot in their first three possessions and built a 5-2 lead in the first period. They expanded it to 11-3 by the end of the second period.

Fischer poured in five goals for the Breakers.

Brittany Prentice and Piper Smith each scored two goals for the Royals.

It was the Royals' second loss to the Breakers in three days

"The other team, the bottom line, they’re very good," San Marcos coach Chuckie Roth said. "They have a way off making it a hard game for their opponent and they’ve done that with every team they’ve played this year. It’s not like we’re alone in that bit."

Roth said against a team as good as Laguna Beach, everyone on his team has to be at the top of her game.

"It’s very easy for them to focus on our best players when we are not individually great offensive and defensively, We need to learn from that and be held accountable."

In the other semifinal, Mater Dei edged Dos Pueblos, 9-8, on a penalty-shot goal in sudden-death overtime.

Mater Dei’s Bella Baia defends against Ryann Neushul of Dos Pueblos during the semifinals. Click to view larger
Mater Dei’s Bella Baia defends against Ryann Neushul of Dos Pueblos during the semifinals. (Barry Punzal / Noozhawk photo)

Mater Dei goalie Marley Presiado stopped three DP penalty shots in the game, including one with 45 seconds left in regulation and the score tied 8-8.

"We did not finish well enough to win, flat out," said DP coach Connor Levoff. “It’s the first game we haven’t finished well. It happens."

The Chargers took an 8-6 lead on goals by Abbi Hill and Jewel Roemer and appeared to go up 9-6 after Hill made a brilliant block and steal at mid-pool and passed to Roemer, who fed Sophie Leggett for the goal. But the score was nullified by an offensive foul.

"We missed a lot of opportunities to go plus-3. They converted their looks. That’s a big  difference," Levoff said. "They’re really good, they’re really disciplined, they’re well coached and organized. They have a lot of dangerous players that we didn’t account for as well as could have today."

Mater Dei’s Bella Baia made it 8-7 and Hannah Constandse raced in and tied the score on a rebound after DP goalie Anna Cable’s block went straight up in the air.

Dos Pueblos passed inside to Ryann Neushul but she was unable to get a shot off against two defenders as the buzzer sounded.

In the overtime, Mater Dei won the face-off and called time out to set up a play. With the shot clock down to two seconds, the Monarchs passed inside to Grace Thawley and she drew the penalty. Thawley took the five-meter shot and beat Cable for a spot in the final.

Constandse had three goals and Nicole Kresich two for Mater Dei. 

Roemer scored three goals and Neushul had two for Dos Pueblos.

Hauschild scored a spectacular goal on a spin move at 2 meters, San Marcos goalie Sophie Trumbull blocked a penalty shot and Lili Akin hit a nice shot from distance to help the Royals take a 6-2 lead over DP in the second period of the third-place game.

Roemer hit a deep shot at the end of the period and Hill scored inside early in the third to narrow the deficit to 6-4. San Marcos answered with two goals by Hauschild that were set up nicely by teammates. 

On the first one, Prentice earned a penalty shot, which Hauschild put away. Her second goal came off a perfectly thrown long pass from Akin.

"She’s getting progressively better and better. I’m really proud of her improvement," Roth said of Akin. "She had a great game today and a really good weekend."

Neushul scored to make it 9-6 with 3:15 left in the fourth period, and DP threatened again. But Trumbull twice came up big to deny the Chargers. Grace Heck scored with 29 seconds left before Hauschild ran out the clock.

Akin had three goals and Sarah Owens scored one for San Marcos (8-2). Defensively, Trumbull was tough, making 11 saves.

"Trum, that’s how great she can be. Today was her best game of the tournament," said Roth, who also praised the play of Prentice and Piper Smith, who played a solid game marking Neushul and Hill.

"We can’t win that game without Piper. She did a good job," said Roth

Roemer and two goals and five other players scored one for DP (13-3).

"They did a good job of sort of limiting our ball movement," said Levoff. "We had some spacing issues and we didn't quite play fast enough to beat their problem solving."

The two teams will square off again in a Channel League game on Wednesday at San Marcos.

Santa Barbara split its final two games of the tournament, losing to La Jolla's The Bishop’s, 10-8, and beating Murrieta Valley, 4-3, in overtime for 11th place.

McGeoy scored the winning goal against Murrieta Valley off a long pass from goalie Faith Tedesco.  Tedesco played strong game, recording 13 saves, a steal to go with her game-winning assist. Anna Hepp scored two goals, Grace Raisin had three steals and earned two ejections.

Against The Bishop’s, Abigail Hendrix had four goals and Georgia Ransone added three. Raisin was a force inside, drawing six ejections and dishing off two assists and McGeoy had four steals and drew two ejections

The Dons play Ventura in a Channel League game on Tuesday.

The all-tournament team consisted of Bella Baldridge (Laguna Beach), Bella Baia (Mater Dei), Grace Thawley (Mater Dei), Paige Hauschild (San Marcos), Piper Smith (San Marcos), Toni Shackelford (Dos Pueblos), Hanna Palmer (Orange Lutheran), Molly DiLalla (Foothill) and Erin Tharp (Corona del Mar).

Aria Fischer of Laguna Beach was the MVP.

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