The Otay Ranch High School girls water polo team appears to have labeled itself as the proverbial “team to beat” for this year’s Mesa League title after defeating east side rival Eastlake, 6-2, on Wednesday to remain undefeated in league play. The key victory boosted the Mustangs’ league record to 3-0 following previous wins against Bonita Vista (13-2 on Jan. 15) and Hilltop (10-3 last Friday).
Otay Ranch, picked in the preseason to possibly struggle along in 2013-14 after graduating several key players, improved to 11-3 overall in stunning fashion.
“I am happy and excited for our program,” Mustang head coach Ernie Medina said. “We were not looked at as of doing very well this season because we lost some strong players, but our girls are coming together and want to finish strong. We still have a competitive league, so we will just have to wait and see the outcome.”
At the moment, Otay Ranch has the advantage with one first-round league game remaining — next Wednesday (3 p.m.) at Mater Dei Catholic.
Eastlake dropped to 1-1 in league play, 4-10 overall, after Wednesday’s setback. The Titans faced off league play with a 13-5 victory against Hilltop on Jan. 15.
Eastlake next plays Mater Dei Catholic Friday (5:30 p.m.) at Southwestern College and tests rival Bonita Vista next Wednesday (5:15 p.m.), also at Southwestern College.
Katie Sutterfield led the Mustangs to their latest victory by scoring three goals while Fernanda Arambula chipped in with one goal, two steals, five ejections earned and one five-meter penalty shot earned.
Kendra Gregory had one goal, one assist, one steal and one five-meter earned while Camy Benitez had one assist and one steal, Monica Saldeco had two steals and Gabby Nunez had one steal.
USC-bound goalie Emma Cornwell starred in the cage with 13 saves, one assist and one goal.
In last Friday’s prime time victory against Hilltop, Arambula led the way with four goals, four steals, one assist, five ejections earned and one-five meter earned while Gregory had one goal, one steal and one-five meter earned, Nunez had one goal and two steals, Alexis Lopez had one goal, two steals and one ejection earned, Benitez had one goal and one ejection earned, K Espinosa had one goal and two steals, Salcedo had one goal and one steal, M Green had one assist. In the cage, Cornell amassed 10 goalie saves, one assist and two steals.
In the league opener against Bonita Vista, Arambula racked up five goals, six steals, three ejections earned, one five-meter earned and one assist while Nunez had four goals and four steals, Lopez had three goals and one assist, Gregory had one goal, two steals, one five-meter and two assists, Benitez had three assists and two steals, Salcedo had one assist and one steal and Cornwell collected eight saves and one steal.
Between the wins over Hilltop and Eastlake, the Mustangs opened play in the East County Invitational with a 7-6 victory against Valley Center on Monday at West Hills High School.
Brianna Mullaley led Eastlake with seven goals in the win over Hilltop while Briana Vazquez contributed two goals and two assists, Eliza Leviner had two goals and one assist, Natalie Adame had one goal and two assists, Madison Reimers had one goal and Alicia Gnasinski had one assist to go with 12 goalie saves.
Bonita Vista, which plays Hilltop Friday at 7:15 p.m. at the Parkway pool, defeated Mater Dei Catholic, 9-1, to face off league play on Jan. 17.
Hilltop enters Friday’s game 0-3 in league play following losses to Eastlake, Otay Ranch and Mater Dei Catholic (7-6 on Wednesday). MDC is also 1-1 in league play.
In team stats compiled through 10 games, Arambula led Otay Ranch with 35 goals, nine assists and 53 steals, followed by Nunez with 27 goals, five assists and 28 steals. Also in 10 games, Cornwell had scored three goals, collected nine assists and made 21 saves from her goalie position.
Friday's games/East County Invitational
Otay Ranch 11, Monte Vista 2
Valley Center 10, San Ysidro 2
Mar Vista 17, Mater Dei Catholic 2
West Hills 12, Mount Miguel 0
RBV 7, El Capitan 3
Point Loma 14, Southwest 1
Ramona 11, LJCD 3
Bonita Vista 12, Olympian 1
Mar Vista vs. Otay Ranch, 11a.m. at West Hills
RBV vs. Ramona, 11a.m. at El Capitan
Winners go to finals
Losers go to third-place game