Four Metro Conference teams qualified for this year’s San Diego Section girls water polo playoffs and one — the South Bay League co-champion Hilltop Lancers — came away with a first-round victory: It was a feat worth celebrating by all the Lancers players and coaches — and everyone involved in the sport in South County.
Hilltop, seeded ninth, defeated the eighth-seeded Oceanside Pirates, 8-7, on Feb. 16 to advance to the Division II quarterfinals. While the Lancers’ playoff win might be scored as a mild upset, HHS head coach Matt Chism and his team certainly relish the hard work that brought it about.
“At the end of the year, we came together as a team — it was better late than never,” said Chism, a 2006 graduate of the school.
The underdog Lancers held the lead the entire game.
“We went up by one, they tied it, then we got two more goals,” Chism said. “We extended our lead to 4-1 by halftime. Later in the second half, they started to close the gap. In the fourth quarter we scored on a six-on-five and that kind of fueled our win. They scored two more goals and we were able to stall their offense.”
Freshman Veronica Guzman keyed the Lancer win by scoring four goals while senior Diana Carreon scored three goals and junior Brianna Conser scored once. Miranda Turner finished the game with 14 goalie saves.
The first-round win gave the South Bay a much needed presence in the quarterfinal round, played Feb. 18-19.
Hilltop drew top-seeded Valhalla, which ended in a 12-0 victory for the Norsemen. The Lancers finished the season 14-8 overall after a 5-1 showing in league play.
Valhalla (26-6) would collect two more playoff wins to claim its first division championship title.
Hilltop and Mar Vista finished in a tie for this year’s South Bay League title by exchanging wins. The Lancers defeated the Mariners, 9-3, in the teams’ second-round match-up to secure a league co-championship after Mar Vista had won the first-round encounter 18-6.
“It was a huge turnaround,” Chism said.
Well, most satisfying if you happen to be a Lancer.
The section playoffs expanded from two to three divisions this year, and Hilltop and Bonita Vista were both beneficiaries of the new-look format. The smaller enrollment schools, previously in Division II, filled out the new Division III field, with medium-size enrollment schools taking their place in the “new” Division II.
Twelve teams qualified in each enrollment division.
Eastlake (Division I) and Mar Vista (Division III) were the Metro Conference’s designated league champions for playoff seeding purposes. Eastlake and Otay Ranch shared the Mesa League championship by exchanging wins.
Despite finishing just 3-11 this season, 12th-seeded Bonita Vista — buoyed by goalie Veronica Reyes — gave fifth-seeded West Hills a competitive first-round contest while dropping a 13-7 match-up to the Wolf Pack.
Mesa League co-champion Eastlake received the No. 12 seed in the Division I playoffs and ended its season with a 10-5 loss to fifth-seeded Patrick Henry.
Mar Vista, seeded 12th in Division III, ended its season with a 23-12 setback to fifth-seeded Mission Bay. Ariana Trammel led the Mariners with six goals in the loss.
Eastlake finished the season 12-9 while Mar Vista finished the season 17-10.
Valhalla held off a late comeback by the Mt. Carmel Sundevils to capture the Division II title by a 7-6 score Feb. 26 at La Jolla High School. It marked the first girls water polo title for the East County school.
Valhalla entered this year’s 12-team divisional championship tournament as the top-seeded team while Mt. Carmel was seeded second. Both teams were heavily favored to advance and meet one another in the final, and that’s exactly what happened.
Kaitlyn Persky scored five goals in the championship game and Morgan Small and Erica Zemke each scored once to lead the Norsemen (26-6) past the Sundevils (17-14). Valhalla built a 7-3 lead with less than four minutes remaining in the game.
Jordan Gilmore made 12 goalie saves to keep the Norsemen afloat.
After defeating Hilltop in the quarterfinals on Feb. 18, Valhalla followed with an 8-3 semifinal win over fourth-seeded Point Loma on Feb. 22.
Persky scored four goals in the quarterfinal victory and had three goals, along with teammate Alli Davis, in the semifinal win. Gilmore had 11 saves in the semifinal victory.
Mt. Carmel, meanwhile, advanced to the championship game with victories against Westview and Ramona.
Top-seeded Vista (27-4) defeated third-seeded Torrey Pines (27-6) by a score of 13-5 to win its fourth consecutive division title while top-seeded Bishop’s (26-4) sank second-seeded La Jolla (21-8) by a score of 10-6 to capture the Division III title and the eighth CIF title overall for the Knights.
2011 All-Mesa League Girls Water Polo Teams
Sarah Medina (Otay Ranch), 10
Kelsey Eaton (Otay Ranch), 11
Mariela Rodriguez (Otay Ranch), 11
Simone Banks (Eastlake), 12
Haley Derrod (Eastlake), 10
Lidia Espinosa (Chula Vista), 11
Irene Ramos (Chula Vista), 10
Tori Kelly (Otay Ranch), 11
Audrey Py (Otay Ranch), 11
Shanise Lukie (Eastlake), 12
Keri Lindsay (Eastlake), 11
Catherine Kennedy (Chula Vista), 12
Katherine Quiles (Bonita Vista), 11
Cierra Flores (Bonita Vista), 11
Bonita Vista: Kelly Yamagata, Lauren Broyles, Victoria Reyes
Eastlake: Hibah Ahmed
Chula Vista: Nikki Sendt, Dani Garcia, Bekka Olszweski
Otay Ranch: Briana Patricio, Sara Gagarin, Alex Arambula
Co-Players of the Year
•Sarah Medina (Otay Ranch)
•Simone Banks (Eastlake)
Otay Ranch Mustangs (5-1 league, 19-7 overall)
Eastlake Titans (5-1 league, 12-8 overall)
2011 All-South Bay League Girls Water Polo Teams
Ariana Trammel (Mar Vista), 12
Natasha Macaskill (Mar Vista), 11
Kaitlin Wilson (Mar Vista), 11
Miranda Turner (Hilltop), 12
Diana Carreon (Hilltop), 12
Veronica Guzman (Hilltop), 9
Taylor Ryan (Castle Park), 10
Kapili Pasa (Mar Vista), 11
Virginia Castillo (Mar Vista), 10
Zyvonne Cardenas (Castle Park), 12
Maritza Perez (Castle Park), 12
Chelsea Tomlinson (Hilltop), 10
Briana Conser (Hilltop), 11
Paola Vizcarra (Hilltop), 9
Southwest: Sierra Holter (11), Daniela Ruiz (11), Alice Nguyen (11)
Castle Park: Celina Amador (12), Audrey Semeny (12)
Hilltop: Christina Macias (12)
Mar Vista: Alexis Patacsil (9), Cindy Chavez (11)
Player of the Year
Ariana Trammel (Mar Vista)
Mar Vista Mariners (5-1 league, 17-10 overall)
Hilltop Lancers (5-1 league, 14-8 overall)