A bountiful year for the Metro Conference’s girls water polo teams? With four teams admitted to this year’s San Diego Section playoffs, the answer has to be in the affirmative. But there was an unfortunate downside: the region’s best team may not have gotten in.
The Mar Vista Mariners and Hilltop Lancers finished as co-champions in the South Bay League this season, while the Eastlake Titans and the Otay Ranch Mustangs tied for the Mesa League lead.
The tie-breaker under Metro Conference by-laws is a coin-flip to determine which team receives automatic entry into the section playoffs. The remaining league co-champion must brave often terrifying waters in search of an at-large berth.
Twelve teams are selected in each of three playoff divisions.
Mar Vista (5-1 in league play, 17-9 overall) won the coin-flip (conducted at the section office) for the South Bay League’s automatic CIF entry and was seeded 12th in the Division III field, drawing a first round game Wednesday against fifth-seeded Mission Bay (6-0 in Central League play, 22-4 overall).
Eastlake (5-1 in league play, 12-8 overall) won the coin-flip for the Mesa League’s automatic CIF entry and was seeded 12th in the Division I field, drawing a first round game Thursday against fifth-seeded Patrick Henry (8-0 in Eastern League play, 25-4 overall).
That left Hilltop (5-1 in league, 13-7 overall) and Otay Ranch (5-1 in league, 19-7 overall) both bidding for at-large playoff berths along with Bonita Vista (1-5 in Mesa League play, 3-11 overall).
The Metro Conference got two of those three in, but its marquee team likely was left watching this year’s playoffs from the pool deck.
Hilltop drew the No. 8 seed in the Division II field and a first round match-up Wednesday against ninth-seeded Oceanside (0-10 in Avocado West League play, 7-15 overall) while Bonita Vista squeaked in as the No. 12 seed in the same Division II field, drawing a first round match-up against fifth-seeded West Hills (3-7 in Grossmont Hills League play, 11-17 overall) .
Otay Ranch was among 15 teams bidding for the 12 available playoff berths in Division I and was among six teams vying for the final three spots.
The Mustangs, despite placing ninth in two regular season tournaments and 10th in the 44-team San Diego Open, failed to nose out Grossmont (17-12), San Pasqual (9-6) and Escondido (13-8). Also failing to make the CIF Division I cut this year were La Costa Canyon (7-3 in Avocado West League play) and Rancho Bernardo (9-17 overall).
Otay Ranch also lost the coin-flip last year with Bonita Vista and suffered the same consequences in a highly competitive Division I field.
Fourteen teams applied for the playoffs in both Division II and Division III. Monte Vista and Steele Canyon both failed to make the CIF cut in Division II while Canyon Crest and Del Norte failed to make the CIF cut in Division III.
All this proves is that the new three division format, while not perfect, is creating its own competitive shake-down.
First-round winners in Division II advance to join teams byed to the quarterfinals on Friday, Feb. 18. First-round winners in both Division and Division II advance to join teams byed to the quarterfinals on Saturday, Feb. 19. Four games will be played Friday at La Jolla High School and eight games will be played Saturday at the same site.
Semifinal action follows Feb. 22 for Division II teams, Feb. 23 for Division III teams and Feb. 24 for Division I teams. All three divisions will hold championship games Feb. 26 at LJHS.
Valhalla (10-0 in Grossmont Hills League, 23-6 overall) earned the No. 1 seed in the Division II field and a bye to Friday’s quarterfinals against the winner of Wednesday’s first round match-up pitting Oceanside and South Bay League co-champion Hilltop. Friday’s quarterfinal game is slated for a 4 p.m. start.
SAN DIEGO SECTION PLAYOFFS
Girls Water Polo/First Round
(9) Hilltop 8, (8) Oceanside 7
(5) West Hills 13, (12) Bonita Vista 7
(5) Mission Bay 23, (12) Mar Vista 12
(12) Eastlake at (5) Patrick Henry