October 02, 2010
Individually, junior Laguna Beach water polo utility Nolan McConnell doesn't have too much more to win in high school sports. Named First Team All-CIF in both his freshman and sophomore seasons, McConnell was the Breakers' leading scorer last year. Since he joined the team in 2008, however, the Breakers have yet to claim the Division III CIF title. For the last two years, the Breakers have been broken by the Montebello Oilers in the CIF semifinals. Last year, the team lost 10-5 after beating Great Oak 14-5 in the quarterfinals.
"I feel like we were prepared for the game but just didn't execute the game plan," McConnell said. "They also had a 6'4 goalie who is at USC now. He was our biggest challenge."
McConnell thinks things will be different this year for Laguna Beach, currently ranked 1st in Division III.
"We are ranked number one in our division and I really think this will be our year," McConnell said. "The team this year is the guys I have been playing with for nine years. We all have very good chemistry and work-ethic. I believe we have the best goalie in our division and he has three years of varsity experience. I think it's our year to take home the ring."
13 games into the season, the Breakers are 10-3 and have already upset Servite, a team currently tied for the 10th ranking in Division I by ocvarsity.com. McConnell, who has racked up 50 goals, 19 assists, and 40 steals in those games, attributed the win to the team's conditioning.
"I feel like we didn't stop moving the whole game and just wore Servite down," said McConnell, who scored four goals in the game. "It was a huge team effort."
The team placed 9th out of about 32 teams in the South Coast Tournament and finished 5th in the Riverside Poly Tournament. Dan Albano of ocvarsity.com named McConnell boys water polo athlete of the week for his 25 goal, 11 assist, and 22 steal performance in the Riverside Poly Tournament. The Breakers also demolished league opponent Sage Hill 17-2 on Wednesday.
McConnell said the team's two biggest games of the season will come against division rivals Palos Verdes, ranked 2nd in Division III by ocvarsity.com, and Mira Costa, ranked 4th by the same site. He said the team just needs to play its game to defeat Mira Costa and Palos Verdes.
"Our strength is the counter-attack. We work really hard on it," McConnell said. "Counter-pass-score. We need to be solid on defense and shut down the standout players."
Though only a junior, McConnell has already received letters from Stanford, the UC Berkeley, UCLA, and Long Beach State.
Water polo runs in McConnell's blood. If he attends Long Beach State, he will be able to play alongside his older brother Nathan, a junior who still has four years of eligibility remaining. His other older brother played for Golden West College and his father also played.
McConnell has been playing with four of the other Laguna Beach starters for his entire water polo career. They all began playing together for their local club team and McConnell said they are all "really close."
Though McConnell said it's unlikely that the Breakers will play Montebello in the semifinals again this year, he said he would relish the opportunity to pay back his team's nemesis.
"There is a chance [that we will play them again], but they graduated almost their whole starting line-up," McConnell said. "It would be great to get some revenge though."
By Austin Block