SANTA BARBARA — Two of the best junior girls' water polo players in CIF were just a couple of feet apart late Saturday afternoon at Santa Barbara High, and it was fun to watch.
Newport Harbor goalie Carlee Kapana had an answer to back-to-back shots from point-blank range from Laguna Beach junior Makenzie Fischer. Kapana made two impressive stops, blocking each one late in the third quarter.
The problem was, the Breakers already were up by four goals. And when Fischer scored on a perfectly executed lob from the left side a quarter later, all Newport Harbor Coach Bill Barnett could do was pull half of his regulars from the game.
Top-seeded Laguna Beach was on its way to a 9-5 victory in the Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions title match. The Breakers were able to do what the Sailors still never have, capturing their first TOC title in program history.
Barnett named his two goalkeepers, Harvard-bound senior Cleo Harrington and Kapana, to the all-tournament team. Splitting time all weekend, they both had outstanding tournaments. But this was Laguna's tournament. Fischer, who scored five goals in the final, earned tournament MVP honors. She was joined on the all-tournament team by her freshman sister, Aria.
Newport Harbor, which did defeat rival CdM, 7-3, in a tournament semifinal earlier Saturday, still has never won the 15th annual tournament. The Sailors have finished in second place a mind-boggling nine times, including four times in the past five years.
The first half was the Sailors' undoing in the final. Makenzie Fischer scored three goals as the Breakers stormed to a 6-0 halftime advantage.
"That was embarrassing," Newport senior Christina O'Beck said. "We had no offense. They were completely shutting us down. Our first line was at like half [tank], and that's something we need to improve on."
Laguna Beach, which won the Holiday Cup two weeks ago for the first time in program history, added another huge tournament win. The Sailors did rally a bit in the third quarter. A goal from junior lefty Ellie Reid from six meters, followed by a lob goal by junior Kate Pipkin, brought the Sailors within 7-4 entering the fourth quarter.
But they could not get closer.
"I thought we did a great job pressing, fronting, and the girls really worked together well on defense," Laguna Beach Coach Ethan Damato said. "We were just controlling the tempo of the game."
Junior Rachel Whitelegge (three steals) and senior Maddie Goodell added goals for third-seeded Newport Harbor (13-3). Harrington made six saves, and Kapana added eight.
The Sailors fell to 0-2 against Laguna this year; the teams play again on Friday at Newport Harbor in a nonleague game.
"Hopefully the third time's a charm," O'Beck said.
Earlier Saturday, the Sailors dominated rival CdM in a tournament semifinal. O'Beck and senior Heidi Fults each scored three goals, with two of Fults' goals coming on penalty shots. Whitelegge had a goal and three steals, while Harrington (five saves) and Kapana (seven) were against stellar.
The Sailors were able to keep CdM standout sophomore Maddie Musselman scoreless in the game.
"We didn't give her any outside shots," Barnett said. "That was one of the things in the game plan, don't drop off Musselman."
Whitelegge, who also had a very solid all-around tournament, said the semifinal win over CdM was one of Newport Harbor's best games of the season. The rivals are now 1-1 against each other this season.
Musselman played plenty at two meters in the game. Whitelegge, who did foul out late in the fourth quarter, said it was different but fun to guard her Team USA teammate, who typically is on the outside. Along with Kapana, they teamed up last summer to help the U.S. win gold at the UANA Youth Pan American Championships in Argentina.
"We've been struggling either doing well on offense or doing well on defense," Whitelegge said. "I thought this game, we really pulled it together on both ends … Normally, they run a lot of isolations with [Musselman] on the other side, and we don't help enough. I think we were able to pick up on that a lot today."
Mater Dei, which finished sixth in the tournament, had senior Newport Beach resident Brianna Daboub as an all-tournament team selection. Daboub, bound for USC, was another member of that team in Argentina last summer.