Which team will claim the 2012-13 Mesa League girls water polo championship? The Eastlake Titans put up a strong argument after defeating the Hilltop Lancers, 15-8, in their league opening game Jan. 10 at the Las Palmas pool in National City.
The teams were locked in a 7-7 halftime tie before the Titans out-scored the Lancers by a decisive 8-1 margin in the second half to claim the victory.
With that, Eastlake claimed a 1-0 start in the league standings.
Natsumi Watanabe paced the Titans (7-8 overall) with six goals and one assist while Briana Vazquez scored four goals, Sharon Jimenez tallied three times and Hibah Ahmed contributed two goals and three assists.
Haley Derrod braced EHS in the cage with 11 goalie saves and four assists.
No scoring information was available for Hilltop.
Watanabe leads the Titans in scoring with 35 goals and five assists, followed by Ahmed with 19 goals and 14 assists, Vazquez with 25 goals and one assist, Jimenez with 12 goals and four assists and Derrod with two goals and 22 assists.
Derrod also has made 158 saves and recorded 29 steals in the team’s 15 games. Ahmed leads Eastlake with 38 steals.
Eastlake is scheduled to play Rancho Buena Vista in a key non-league match on Tuesday, Jan. 15, at 4:15 p.m. at the Wave Recreation Park in Vista. The Titans are scheduled to meet the Bonita Vista Barons in an important Mesa League showdown on Thursday, Jan. 17, at 5:15 p.m. at Southwestern College.
Defending Mesa League champion Otay Ranch, already with an 18-0 league victory against Mater Dei Catholic to its credit in its league opener last week, faced off against Bonita Vista in a key league match-up Monday, winning 15-1 at Southwestern College.
Otay Ranch improved to 7-1 on the season by topping Olympian, 18-0, in a non-league game last Friday. Emma Cornwell recorded the shutout by making 10 saves while Sarah Medina spearheaded the offensive attack with eight goals and two assists. Medina also contributed 12 steals on the defensive side of the ball.
Also for the Mustangs, Camy Benitez had three goals and four 4 steals while Fernanda Arambula had two goals, four steals and one assist. Gabby Nunez had two goals, one assist and two steals while Cailin Lechner had two goals, three assists and five steals and Kendra Gregory had one goal, one assist and five steals.
Otay Ranch improved to 8-1 on the season, 2-0 in league, after Monday's victory.
Sarah Medina had a monster game with 10 goals, 10 steals and one assist. Arambula had two goals, four steals and one assist while Benitez had on goal, two steals and one assist. Nunez had one goal and one steal while Lechner had one assist and four steals. Gregory had one steal and Alex Corrao had one assist.
Cornwell notched 10 saves to go with four steals, one assist and one goal.
"I am a little suprised and happy about how well my girls are doing," Otay Ranch coach Ernie Medina said. "We are basically a new team with only one returning starter, and playing strong againstsome very good teams. Our goalie has really stepped up with three shutouts and two one-point games. She set a personal record with16 saves against University City, which is ranked among the top five teams in Division II.
"I am also proud of our JV and novice girls who jumped up to varsity this year. Captains Sarah Medina, Emma Cornwell and Fernanda Arambula are working hard to get or team up for the competition."
The elder Medina said he has added the East County Invitational to his team's schedule. Otay will
play La Jolla Country Day and Helix on Jan. 21 at West Hills. "Helix is our only loss so far -- 10-6 -- and we played without a few varsity members at the time, so we look forward to the game," the ORHS coach said.
The Mustangs are aiming for a berth in February's Division I playoffs. Top teams include Carlsbad, Granite Hills, Patrick Henry, Vista, Helix, Rancho Bernardo, Rancho Buena Vista, Grossmont, Fallbrook, Eastlake, Otay Ranch and El Camino.
Twelve teams qualify for post-season play, including league champions.