It’s no surprise it has come down to this.
Arroyo Grande High and Rio Mesa of Oxnard will meet in the CIF-Southern Section Division 4 girls water polo championship game this afternoon for the second season in a row.
Naturally, the two teams have been ranked Nos. 1 and 2 in the division all season.
“It’s the matchup we wanted from Day 1,” Rio Mesa coach Keith McKnett told the Camarillo Acorn newspaper earlier this week. “This is it.”The game will be held at 1:30 p.m. at William Woollett Jr. Aquatic Center in Irvine.
The Eagles (29-3), looking for their third straight divisional title, will be making their fourth straight championship-game appearance, having topped Rio Mesa 9-7 last year, edging Harvard-Westlake 8-7 two years ago and falling 13-10 to Cabrillo three seasons ago.
Arroyo Grande advanced to this year’s final by downing the bracket’s No. 5 seed, Los Padres League champion Cabrillo (22-7), 12-8 on a rainy Wednesday afternoon before a standing-room only crowd at Cuesta College.
Rio Mesa (26-6), meanwhile, cruised against South Pasadena (25-2) in the other semifinal, 12-4.
The Eagles, who again went unbeaten in PAC 7 play this year to run their league winning streak to 66 straight games, have been led offensively by Melanie Johnson (who had five goals Wednesday), Kim Johnson (four), Alexa May (two) and Stephanie Stern (one).
Senior goalkeeper and Cal recruit Briana Lippert, meanwhile, made 11 saves in the semifinal and brings a wealth of experience into the final, having won Division 4 co-Player of the Year honors last season.
The two nemeses met for a rematch of last year’s final Jan. 9 at the Arroyo Grande Winter Classic tournament, with the Eagles prevailing 5-4 in a matchup in which both teams held back with the thought that they might indeed later face each other for the divisional crown. In that meeting, the Spartans led 3-1 early before letting the lead slip away late.