Fri, Jan 18 2013 12:25 PM Posted By: Phillip Brents
The Mesa League girls water polo championship race appears to be just heating up after Eastlake’s hard-fought 6-5 victory Thursday against the defending league champion Otay Ranch Mustangs. The Titans improved to 2-0 in league play, dropping the Mustangs to 2-2 in league.
But there are plenty of games left in regular season play — and plenty of time for positions to change.
EHS coach Jorge Ortega, however, likes where his team currently sits — particularly in regard to seeding position for February’s San Diego’s Division I playoffs.
Twelve teams qualify for post-season play in each of three enrollment divisions, including league champions.
“I see us anywhere from 13 up to 10 in the Division I rankings,” Ortega said. “Our goal is to win a league championship but I don’t want to depend on winning league to get into the playoffs.”
The Titans took care of business in that regard by scoring a key 12-11 non-league win over Rancho Buena Vista on Tuesday at the Wave Recreation Park in Vista.
“That was huge for us,” Ortega underscored. “We beat them by one goal but RBV has name recognition. We want to get our name out there. Division I this year is stacked.”
Thursday’s victory against Otay Ranch raised Eastlake’s overall record to 9-8 while the Mustangs, also vying for playoff inclusion, dropped to 8-3.
Otay Ranch’s strength this year is more on the defensive side and a low scoring game was forecast after the Mustangs dropped a 6-5 decision to Hilltop on Tuesday.
In fact, Otay Ranch led 2-1 after the opening quarter as the teams settled into a 3-3 halftime standoff. The Titans got the only two goals of the third quarter and that proved to be the difference as the Mustangs stormed back to win the final quarter 2-1.
“Otay girls played strong defense,” ORHS coach Ernie Medina said.
Sarah Medina, the Mustang coach’s daughter and the reigning Mesa League Player of the Year, was the game’s star attraction. She led all scorers in the water with five goals while also making eight defensive steals.
Eastlake’s scoring was spread around, with Hibah Ahmed scoring three times, Natsumi Watanabe scoring twice and Mia Lam receiving credit for one goal.
Watanabe, the Titans’ season scoring leader with 42 goals and six assists, took 12 shots in the game. She also recorded one assist on the scoresheet.
Briana Vazquez led EHS with three steals.
Titan goalie Haley Derrod finished the game with 15 saves, one assist and two steals. She now has 199 saves this season.
Her counterpart in the Otay Ranch cage, Emma Cornwell, notched 10 saves.
Also for the Mustangs, Fernanda Arambula had four steals and one assist, Monica Salcedo had two steals, Gabby Nunez had two steals, Cailin Lechner had one steal and Camy Benitez had two steals and one assist.
The younger Medina increased her season output to 70 goals, 13 assists, 76 steals, eight five-meter penalty shots earned and 46 ejections earned.
Last season, she totaled 102 goals, 51 assists, 142 steals, 18 five-meters earned and 71 ejections earned.
The elder Medina noted his team still has 14 games left this season — including key rematches with both Hilltop and Eastlake as well as appearances in the upcoming East County Invitational and San Diego Open tournaments.
Eastlake also still has plenty of time to shine — and solidify its position atop the league standings.
Ahmed had four goals and four assists and Watanabe scored five times in the win over RBV. Vazquez had two goals and one assist while Sharon Jimenez scored once.
Derrod had 11 saves and three assists.
The Titans are 7-5 against San Diego Section opponents and own a 2-3 finish in the recent Costa Mesa tournament.
Ortega is encouraged by his team’s performance in the Orange County tourney.
Eastlake dropped close contests to both Capistrano Valley (5-4) and Etiwanda (4-2) while scoring victories against Kennedy (13-4) and Santa Fe (18-3). The Titans also lost to Orange Lutheran (9-4).
“We have a challenging schedule this year,” the EHS coach said. “I really feel that because of the type of games we’ve played in and the type of teams we’ve face that our girls are learning how to win.”
Following Watanabe on the EHS scoring ledger are Ahmed with 26 goals and 18 assists, Vazquez with 27 goals and three assists and Jimenez with 13 goals and four assists. Derrod has two goals and 26 assists to her credit.
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