In many ways, Thursday evening’s scene epitomized most recent PAC 7 games for the Arroyo Grande High girls water polo team.
Steven Allen, the Eagles’ coach, didn’t have to do much more than calmly watch from his bench. A spectator sincerely wondered aloud whether a mercy rule existed. And most importantly, Arroyo Grande was effectively in a league of its own in the pool, with the game at hand merely scenery on the way to an annual CIF-Southern Section playoff run.
The Eagles, who are in search of their fourth consecutive sectional division championship, led 15-1 over visiting Righetti after three quarters, and went on to win by that same margin, claiming their 73rd straight league victory.
“I think it comes from our coaching, our dedication to how hard we train and how well we all bond together,” senior Alexa May said. “Not only can six girls start, but our whole bench can start.”
May, who is scheduled to make a recruiting visit to Hawaii next week, and has also been in contact with UC Santa Barbara, among others, scored three goals in the win, as did Emily Potter.
Meghan Anderson, Hannah Kope and Kelly O’Sullivan all scored two goals each for Arroyo Grande (16-3, 7-0), and Alexis Elias, Katie Romine and Katie Sverchek tallied one apiece.
“I think we’re all better at swimming than we were last year,” May said. “We’re a lot stronger.”
Eagles goalkeeper Kylie Anderson was seldom tested Thursday, making two saves. Anderson started the season inheriting her spot from Briana Lippert, the program’s all-time saves leader who’s now on the roster at Cal.
In comparing this year’s team to last year’s, Allen said the Eagles have been able to rely on an even deeper cast of players for scoring.
“We’ve got more offensive threats than ever,” Allen said. “We still have the defense, and Kylie Anderson in the cage has done a great job for us taking over Briana’s role.
“We’ve got a lot of weapons out there (on offense),” Allen added. “That was one of our things we talked about this year, was that we’ve got to be deadly from the outside, because teams are going to drop. We’ve got a good inside game, so we’ve got to be able to shoot from the outside.”
Arroyo Grande was ranked No. 3 in the division Monday, behind St. Lucy’s of Glendora and Murrieta Valley.
At its own Winter Classic Tournament held two weeks ago, the Eagles lost 10-6 to Murrieta Valley.
“I really think those top three teams, Murrieta Valley, St. Lucy’s and ourselves, we’re really kind of in for a close one,” Allen said.Arroyo Grande will also soon travel to Irvine for the SoCal Championships tournament from Feb. 3 to Feb. 5. The divisional playoffs start Feb. 14.
South Pasadena, Rio Mesa, La Serna, Ayala and El Rancho are the next five ranked teams in the division, which should see a more competitive field come playoff time, Allen said, after realignment throughout the section this past offseason.
Arroyo Grande was moved up to Division 3 this year from Division 4 because of its past success.
“I think it’s going to be more like a really crazy semifinal and quarterfinal game that we haven’t really had in the past,” Allen said. “We’re looking forward to it.”