NEWPORT BEACH — For most water polo teams, the challenge Laguna Beach’s girls faced Sunday probably would have been too much.
The Breakers entered the finals of the California State High School Water Polo Championships against a chief rival without their star goalie and three key seniors from last season, including Olympian Aria Fischer. Mater Dei lined up with all its key players from the 2016-17 campaign.
But Laguna Beach’s talent pipeline and cohesion run deeper than most teams, and the Breakers provided yet another reminder in a back-and-forth finale at Corona del Mar.
Backup goalie Quinn Winter blocked three penalty shots, including two in shootouts, as the reigning CIF-SS Division 1 champion edged Mater Dei, 13-12, in overtime.
“It’s a really good thing we have going,” said Laguna Beach senior-to-be Sophia Lucas, who scored two of her team-high four goals in the fourth period. “I’m really proud of us. We’re really coming together as one and I think we’re playing for each other.”
Mater Dei captured the boys title, defeating Campolindo of Moraga, 11-9, behind a go-ahead strike by Cooper Haddad with 1:04 left in the fourth at Foothill.
The three-day tournament featured 45-team brackets for the boys and girls and players for the 2017-18 seasons.
Mater Dei’s Hannah Constandse scored her third goal of the fourth period on a counterattack with 27 seconds left to tie the score, 10-10, and force overtime. The junior-to-be left-hander finished with a game-high six goals.
The girls final moved to a best-of-5 shootout. Mater Dei opened a 2-1 lead after goals by Tea Poljak and Grace Thawley. But after Laguna Beach’s Alana Evans and Lucas converted their 5-meter chances, Winter blocked consecutive shots to seal the victory for the Breakers.
“She’s a beast,” Laguna Beach All-County goalie Thea Walsh said of Winter, who also blocked a penalty shot early in the fourth period and finished with 14 saves. “I didn’t have a single doubt.”
Walsh, a senior, helped the Breakers beat Mater Dei four times last season en route to a 31-0 season. She didn’t play because of a medical issue but said she expects to be ready for the upcoming girls Junior Olympics, which start July 27 in Orange County.
Laguna Beach’s impressive cast of newcomers also featured junior-to-be center Claire Kelly and sophomore-to-be defender Katherine Houlahan, each of whom scored twice. Freshmen Molly Renner and Nicole Struss also played.
“We still have more…