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Tuesday, December 11 , 2018, 4:27 am | Fair 42º

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Water Polo

Terrific Defensive Effort Isn’t Enough For San Marcos in CIF Water Polo Final

Royals hold No. 1 Laguna Beach to lowest scoring output but suffer 6-2 setback

Aria Fischer of Laguna Beach pressures Paige Hauschild of San Marcos during CIF Division 1 championship game. Click to view larger
Aria Fischer of Laguna Beach pressures Paige Hauschild of San Marcos during CIF Division 1 championship game. (Barry Punzal / Noozhawk photo)

The defense was outstanding and the goalkeeping amazing for San Marcos in the CIF-Southern Section Division 1 girls water polo championship game.

Usually, that would be enough for the Royals to come out victorious.

But not against No. 1 Laguna Beach.

The Royals held Laguna Beach to one goal in the second half and kept them under 10 goals for the first time his season. But the Breakers scored five goals in the first half and got superb performances from their defense and goalkeeper to beat San Marcos, 6-2, and win their third Division 1 championship in four years and finish the season undefeated at 31-0.

San Marcos finished 26-6.

When Bella Baldridge stole a pass out of a San Marcos timeout and went coast to coast for the Breakers’ sixth goal with 3:38 left in the fourth period, it all but sealed the win for Laguna Beach.

Up until then, the Royals were within striking distance. Piper Smith fired a shot past Breakers goalie Thea Walsh with 48 seconds left in the third period to cut the deficit to three. 

Sophie Trumbull made a save on a Laguna Beach power play early in the fourth period and the Royals’ defense did its job disrupting the Breakers’ attack.

But the the Stanford-bound Baldridge made her big play to put her team up by four goals

The Royals set up Sarah Owens for a good look, but she was denied by Walsh, who finished with 11 saves.

San Marcos played brilliantly in defeat. Paige Hauschild wrestled with Olympic gold medalist Aria Fischer throughout the game and held her to one goal (the first goal of the game), the defense didn’t allow the Breakers to take complete control of the game and Trumbull was downright spectacular in the goal.

Paige Hauschild breaks from the Laguna Beach defense to get off a shot. Click to view larger
Paige Hauschild breaks from the Laguna Beach defense to get off a shot. (Barry Punzal / Noozhawk photo)

“Sophie was absolutely amazing,” said Hauschild.

Trumbull faced Fischer on a breakaway and blocked the Olympian’s point-blank shot with 1:34 left in the third period. The junior stopped 11 shots against the explosive Breakers.

“I think that’s an accomplishment,” San Marcos coach Chuckie Roth said of holding Laguna Beach to six goals. “They’re a very talented team and everybody has had their trial with them all year long, and to be able to walk away from this thing and say we held them to six and we lost by four, which is closer than anybody else, that’s an accomplishment.

“You never want to lose a game but there are successes in losses,” he continued. “We did some things right tonight. I was really proud of my kids. We came out with nerves or whatever it was and we weren’t executing in the first quarter. Once we really got on our game plan, it worked pretty well, I thought.”

Laguna Beach coach Ethan Damato praised San Marcos for its gritty performance.

“I thought they played great defense and their goalie played well,” he said. “They played with a ton of effort, they played with a ton of heart. We didn’t expect anything less, to be honest. We knew it was going to be a battle tonight. We’re just happy to come home with a win and happy with the number for us — two goals for them in a CIF championship game is a great defensive effort.”

The difference in the game was the first period. After Fischer scored the first goal, Walsh blocked a shot. Baldridge skipped one past Trumbull and Walsh tapped away a lob by Hauschild; Baldridge then converted on a power play and Walsh stoned Hauschild’s shot from the wing. It was 3-0 Laguna Beach.

“We got unlucky on some shots,” Hauschild said. “We played super well. I’m super proud of this team. We did the best we could but we got a little unlucky here and there.”

“We really had rough first quarter, unfortunately, when we gave up three. I was really proud where we went from that point,” said Roth.

Roth devised a defensive plan to contain Fischer and Baldridge and it worked for the most part.

“We came up with a defensive game plan and we were hoping we could generate some offense to match that,” he said. “We had a harder time on the offensive end, obviously. Defensively, I thought we played phenomenal. Sophie Trumbull is a very talented goalie. I think you saw the two best high school goalies in the country tonight in this game.”

The Royals finally beat Walsh when Smith got free inside and rifled a shot past her to make it 3-1. But the Breakers answered on a goal by Alex Peros and went ahead 5-1 when Sophia Lucas crashed the cage for the rebound of a shot blocked by Trumbull and scored.

San Marcos pressured the Breakers but it couldn’t get another one past Walsh before halftime. She blocked Smith from two meters and deflected a nice skip shot by Owens off the post.

On the play of Walsh, Roth said: “She’s a very talented goalie and does a phenomenal job. To get anything by her, that’s tough to do. I was really proud of Piper who got two in tonight. That was great.”

“She had an amazing game tonight,” Damato said of his goalie. “She bailed us out a lot and I’m really proud of her (and) just really proud of our team. To go undefeated is hard to do. Aria and Bella lost one game together in high school and have three CIF championships to show. That’s a pretty special senior class.”

Hauschild and Prentice were part of special senior group at San Marcos. They helped the team advance to two straight final fours and a runner-up finish.

“It’s meant more than you can imagine. These girls are so special,” said Hauschild, who is headed to USC. “Chuckie runs the most amazing program. He’s taught us so much in and out of the pool. I’m forever thankful for this.”

Said Prentice, who is bound for Michigan: “Chuckie is more than a coach to me. He’s been such an amazing role model. He was my coach at 12 and under. I’ve been blessed to have him as my coach another four years. He’s the best there is, he really is, in and out of the water, from his X’s and O’s in water polo to his great life stories that he shares with us; the inspiration he’s instilled in us and just the values that he’s instilled on sportsmanship, teamwork, dedication, respect, all of that. He’s an amazing coach and an amazing person.”

And the Royals experienced an amazing season.

Noozhawk sports editor Barry Punzal can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk Sports on Twitter: @NoozhawkSports. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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