The Mesa League could have co-champions this season in girls water polo, providing both the Otay Ranch Mustangs and Eastlake Titans finish the remainder of the league season undefeated. That scenario was set in motion Jan. 27 when Eastlake edged Otay Ranch, 7-6, in a high profile match-up at Southwestern College.
The victory by the Titans was payback for a 9-4 loss at the Loma Verde pool earlier in the month.
“This was one of the best games we’ve played together — it’s been a while since we’ve beaten Otay Ranch,” said Eastlake’s Kerry Lindsay, who had two goals in the victory.
While the Titans may have experienced tears of joy, several members of the Mustangs shed tears after the game for other reasons. ORHS coach Ernie Medina was visibly moved by the display.
“This shows how much this game meant to these girls, how much they care about this sport,” he said.
Eastlake faced a must-win scenario in the match-up of Mesa League juggernauts and seized the momentum with a 2-0 first quarter lead.
Lindsay scored the game’s opening goal and Simone Banks made it 2-0 as the Titans controlled play in the opening quarter. The Mustangs, who Medina said felt cramped in the narrower confines of the SWC pool, finally got their offense rolling in the second quarter only to be thwarted by the outstanding play of EHS sophomore goalie Haley Derrod.
Lindsay scored a goal at the buzzer to end the first half to give the hosts a key 3-1 lead.
Otay Ranch’s Sarah Medina scored the first of her three goals to trim the score to 3-2 early in the third quarter, but a series of superb saves by Derrod and successful counter-attacks by Eastlake quickly ballooned the Titan lead to 7-2 midway through the fourth quarter.
Banks had two of those goals while Shanice Lukie and Hailey Spellman each scored single goals. Two of the goals came on perfectly executed lob shots while the hosts also scored one power-play goal.
But just when it seemed the game might be out of reach, the Mustangs (3-1 in league, 14-5 overall) put it into high gear to score four unanswered goals, the last with 40 seconds left in regulation to cut the EHS lead to one goal.
Kelsey Eaton started off the goal rush with a five-meter penalty shot and Medina followed with the next two goals. Another penalty shot by Eaton set up the exciting finish.
However, the Titans (3-1, 7-5) were able to maintain control of the ball in the final seconds and successfully run out the clock.
Derrod was credited with 12 goalie saves in the victory.
“This was the best we’ve played as a team — it was the whole team that made this possible, not just me,” Derrod said.
While Derrod may have tried to down-play her role in the win, she certainly had a major starring part with at least a half-dozen point-blank stops throughout the game.
“Their goalie was the difference in this game,” the elder Medina said succinctly.
The younger Medina led Otay Ranch with eight steals.
while teammate Mariela Rodriguez collected five steals. Audrey Py had four steals for the Mustangs, who racked up a 22-17 advantage in shots.
Eaton leads Otay Ranch in overall scoring with 54 goals and 15 assists while collecting 41 steals. Medina is also having a monster season with 50 goals, 16 assists and 120 steals.
The victory was the seventh in 12 games for Eastlake this season. Derrod, who plays year- round for the San Diego Shores Water Polo Club, is averaging 10 saves per game and four steals per game.
The Titans have now defeated Otay Ranch, Chula Vista (twice), Bonita Vista, Hilltop, Orange Glen and Canyon Crest Academy.