The Spartans have earned the right to be favorites.
Rio Mesa hasn’t lost a league match since 2005, and the program won the last seven Pacific View titles, but Spartan head coach Keith McKnett said he doesn’t think his team will cruise to another league crown.
“It’s going to be close this season,” said the 12th-year head coach. “We’ve had some really good, dominant teams in league. This year, we’re young.
“Oxnard and Pacifica are pretty good teams. Camarillo is also good. . . . It’s going to be tough.”
The Spartans open the season today at Newbury Park’s Mistletoe Classic.
Walters is a freshman for the USC women’s water polo team.
“It’s going to be hard not having Courtney and Abby,” said senior Abbey Brooks, an All-Pacific View second-team selection last winter.
“We have a lot of potential this year, and it’s nice knowing we don’t rely on one or two players. We all can contribute.”
Rio Mesa is also a contender to win a CIF-Southern Section Division 4 championship.
The Spartans are ranked sixth in the Division 4 coaches’ poll.
RMHS spent the previous two seasons competing in Division 3, but the Spartans didn’t get past the quarterfinals in that span.
“I preferred being in the harder division,” McKnett said.
“I like the challenge, but Division 4 will also be real competitive. It’s a fair place for the Pacific View League to be in.”
The Spartans advanced to Division 4 title matches in 2008-09 and 2009-10.
Winning a section title is just as important as keeping the PVL streak alive for Rio Mesa.
“It’s a lot of pressure,” junior Krystin Ventura said. “We don’t want to be the team that ends the streak.
“It’s a privilege being able to represent a winning program. It seems like it’s easy winning league, but it’s not. We work very hard.”
Ventura, Brooks and Halley Richardson are captains.
Brooks, who’s been on varsity since her freshman season, has received strong interest from Pepperdine to compete on the Waves’ swim team. Cal Lutheran is recruiting Brooks for water polo.
Ventura is part of the California Scholarship Federation and the Red Cross clubs on campus.
Richardson, a senior who wants to major in art history in college, said this team has developed chemistry in the water.
“We have a close bond,” said Richardson, who started the Advocates for Art club at Rio Mesa. “We all get along and push each other. It’s nice to see everyone improve since our summer workouts.”
Senior Lauren Schroeder is a first-year varsity starting goalie.
Seniors Allie White, Christina Tellez and Lexi Nesbit provide experience.
Juniors Amanda Ozawa and Taylor Mitsucchi contribute for Rio Mesa.
Freshman Jessie Radwan and sophomores Cece Kavon, Maeve Flynn, Beth Arbon and Samantha Bunker are talented youngsters that give the Spartans a bright future.
“It’s going to be really interesting to see how the younger girls compete,” McKnett said.
“There are a lot of new faces. Everyone’s fighting for starting spots. I don’t know who my goto players are yet, but we’ll find out soon.”