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Otay Ranch building up game, standard for excellence in girls lacrosse Phillip Brents | Tue, Apr 19 2011 11:44 AM

Otay Ranch girls lacrosse coach Manny Frutos has watched his team grow along with the rest of the Metro Conference over the last several years. This is the third year for the sport within the Sweetwater Union High School District and the Mustangs’ fourth overall after forming as an independent team its first year.

Otay Ranch has emerged as the fledgling circuit’s dynamic team with league titles in both 2009 (shared with Bonita Vista) and 2010 (captured outright). The Mustangs could be headed toward a “three-peat” — and possibly more.

“We want to get our third league championship but we also want to get past the first round of the playoffs,” said Frutos, whose team improved to 2-0 in league play, 4-2, overall with an inspired 13-5 victory at Hilltop on Tuesday (April 5). “We want to get to the second or even third round and be able to compete with the other teams.”

With an expanded playoff format to two enrollment divisions this season, it remains uncertain how any post-season fortunes might play out. While the playoffs expand to two divisions, only eight teams will be admitted in each division.

Thus, postseason berths may come at a premium for local squads.

But Frutos and the rest of his Metro coaching peers have another month of league play ahead of them before they have to worry about just where they stack up in the playoff equation.

In the meantime, the emphasis is on team camaraderie and having fun while fine-tuning skills.

The Mustangs gave a clinic on just how to pull off an unexpected victory during the second half of Tuesday’s contest.

Hilltop led 4-3 at halftime and held a one-goal lead at 5-4 midway through the second half before Otay Ranch went on a tear to score nine unanswered goals to end the game.

“It was a great finish,” Frutos said with a most satisfying smile.

Please insert the word “incredible” for “great.”

“I like to remind the girls that whoever they play they must play at the level they need to play their game — Mustang lacrosse,” Frutos said. “We have a great group of talent. The whole game down here has started to grow — not only on my team but on the other teams in the league. Hilltop played an amazing first half.”

Returners Briana Hannes and Michelle Garcia each scored four goals to lead Otay Ranch in Tuesday’s game while Rhona Presebre scored two goals and Cyndia Ortega, Cindy Quant and Jasmine Santa Maria each scored single goals. Goalie Krysta Donaldson was credited with 15 saves.

Hannes is the Mustangs’ top attacker. She racked up 64 goals last season and improved her total to 22 through just six games this season.

Garcia ranks as Otay Ranch’s top returning midfielder while Ortega is the team’s top returning defender.

Donaldson now has rolled up 78 saves in six games — an average of 13 saves per game.
“She single-handedly has carried us in games both last year and this year,” said Frutos, whose team has dropped narrow non-league decisions against Serra (11-7) and Mt. Carmel (8-7).
“She’s our most experienced player. She has been playing since the seventh grade and attended a camp on the East Coast during the offseason.”

Aurora Clark keyed the Lancers (1-1 in league play, 5-2 overall) with three goals while Nicci Coyle and Jalissa Presley each scored once in the loss to the Mustangs.

Second-year Hilltop coach Sarah Scott likes what she has seen this season despite watching her team experience a most frustrating ending to Tuesday’s game.

“We finished in third place last year — it was a very exciting experience,” the Lancer coach said. “The goal is to go higher and take the team to another level. We won half our games last year. I’m looking to improve from there.”

Impact players this season for Hilltop include Presley, a sophomore midfielder, Coyle, a junior midfielder, junior defenders Chelsea Ventura and Courtney Creel and senior attacker Jackie Venegas

The Lancers faced off the season with non-league victories against Mission Hills (8-6 on March 9) and Point Loma (11-5 on March 15) and also have scored wins against San Marcos (9-8 on March 25), Chula Vista (15-6 on March 28) and Patrick Henry (8-7 on March 30). The team’s only other setback came against Del Norte (8-6 on March 16).

“Otay Ranch and Bonita Vista are contenders,” Scott said. “We’d like to leave an imprint.”

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