The Otay Ranch Mustangs’ starting unit of seven players has affectionately earned the nickname “Magnificent Seven” from ORHS coach Ernie Medina. They led the Metro Conference’s top team into this week’s San Diego Section playoffs.
The Mustangs’ hard-fought 3-2 victory against the Eastlake Titans last Friday at the Las Palmas pool in National City gave the team a spotless 8-0 league record and a No. 7 seed in the Division I playoffs.
Otay Ranch (21-4) will meet the second-seeded Granite Hills Eagles (29-2) in Friday’s quarterfinals at La Jolla High School (7:45 p.m.) after defeating the 10th-seeded Escondido Cougars (16-11) by a 10-6 score in Wednesday’s opening round.
The Mustangs joined Bonita Vista (Division II) and Mar Vista (Division III) as the Metro Conference’s three playoff qualifiers this season. Eastlake (12-16, Division I), Hilltop (8-12, Division II) and Mater Dei Catholic (6-14, Division III) all just missed making the playoff cut of 12 teams in each division.
Audrey Py led Otay Ranch with four goals in Wednesday’s playoff victory while Kelsey Eaton contributed three goals and one assist. Mariela Rodriguez had two goals and four steals while Sarah Medina had one goal, six steals, four assists and four ejections earned. Tori Kelly contributed four steals while Sara Gagarin made two steals in defensive support of goalie Bri Patricio (10 saves).
The Mustangs led 4-1 at the end of the first quarter and 7-4 at halftime.
“Otay played together, worked the ball and controlled the tempo of the game,” Ernie Medina said. “All the girls played unselfishly, helping each other and communicating the whole game. I am very proud of what the team has accomplished this season — 21-4 is the best overall record that the Mustangs have ever had.”
Sarah Medina led Otay Ranch with a goal and assist while Py and Kelly also scored goals in last Friday’s regular season finale against Eastlake. Medina led the Mustangs with five steals while Rodriguez made four steals. Patricio was credited with 10 saves.
The game proved to be a suitable playoff test — both for the Mustangs and particularly the Titans. An upset victory against Otay Ranch might have been just what Eastlake needed to secure an elusive playoff berth.
“Eastlake showed up prepared and played well,” the Mustang coach said.
Kerry Lindsay scored both Titan goals on a team-high 10 shots. Hailey Spelman led Eastlake in the defensive department with four steals while goalie Haley Derrod made a game-high 16 saves.
Sarah Medina was voted the Mesa League’s 2011-12 Player of the Year while Derrod earned the nod as first team all-league goalie.
Despite the close call at the end of the regular season, the elder Medina said his team met its goal. “(We) worked as a team all season and just got better and better,” he said. “The Lady Mustang goal was to leave no question as to making CIF playoffs.”
Bonita Vista (16-12-1) received the No. 11 seed in the Division II playoffs and was scheduled to play sixth-seeded University City (10-7) Wednesday at the La Jolla Jewish Community Center, with the winner advancing to meet third-seeded Westview (17-12) in Saturday’s quarterfinals at LJHS (11 a.m.).
South Bay League champion Mar Vista (14-12) received the No. 11 seed in the Division III field and was scheduled to play at sixth-seeded El Capitan (21-7) on Thursday, with the winner advancing to Saturday’s quarterfinals (4 p.m.) against third-seeded Cathedral Catholic (17-10).
(Update: University City defeated Bonita Vista, 13-6, while El Capitan defeated mar Vista 15-5.)
All playoff games are scheduled at LJHS. The Division II semifinals are scheduled Tuesday, Feb. 21. The Division III semifinals slated Wednesday, Feb. 22, and the Division I semifinals set Thursday, Feb. 23.
A championship triple-header closes out play on Feb. 25. The Division I final is scheduled at 2:30 p.m., the Division II championship game at 5 p.m. and the Division III title contest at 7:30 p.m.
Six league champions received automatic entry in the Division I field while five league champions received automatic entry in Division III. There were no automatic entries (i.e. designated league champions) in Division II this year.
Eighteen teams applied for inclusion in the Division I playoffs.
The top four-seeded teams in each division received byes in the first round. Carlsbad (Division I), Valhalla (Division II) and Bishop’s (Division II) each received top seeds in their divisions.
MESA LEAGUE STANDINGS
(Regular Season Records)
•Otay Ranch 8-0 league, 20-4
•Bonita Vista 5-3 league, 16-12-1 l
•Eastlake 4-4 league, 12-16
•Hilltop 3-4 league, 8-12
•Mater Dei Catholic 0-8 league, 6-14