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Spartans still the class of PVL

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Although the Pacific View League girls’ water polo season hasn’t yet reached its midway point, the Rio Mesa High Spartans have once again established themselves as championship frontrunners.

The Spartans, who haven’t lost a league match since 2005 and have run off six consecutive PVL titles, blasted rival Camarillo 17-5 Tuesday afternoon at Ed Phillips Rio Mesa Community Aquatics Center.

With the victory, Rio Mesa improved to 8-6 overall, 2-0 in league.

Senior standout Courtney Walters led the Spartan onslaught with a match-high five goals.

Senior Tori Carson chipped in four goals. Senior Abby McCardel l , junior Abbey Brooks and sophomore Krystin Ventura all found the back of the Scorpions’ net twice.

Walters, a utility player who recently committed to USC, and McCardell are Spartan cocaptains and the team’s only four-year varsity members.

In their illustrious careers at RMHS, Walters and McCardell have helped guide the Spartans to a pair of CIF-Southern Section title matches.

Last year, after a move up to Division 3, Rio Mesa advanced to the quarterfinal round.

But Walters doesn’t judge her squad’s success strictly on wins and losses.

“As a team, I want to see us all come out and have the best time we can and do the best that we can,” Walters said. “I’ll be happy and completely satisfied if that’s what we do.

“I’m really looking forward to this year. The girls have completely surprised me. They come out with so much heart and spirit—and that’s just so great to see.”

Head coach Keith McKnett, in his 11th season guiding RMHS, said Walters might be the best girls’ water polo player in Ventura County.

“Courtney is so dynamic,” the coach said.

“She has everything. She’s fast. She shoots hard. Her defense is amazing. She knows the game. I mean, her instincts are just unbelievable. In a way, (Walters) and (McCardell) are like coaches in the water. They both bring a lot to the table. I’ve been using them quite a bit.”

McCardell, a driver, possesses a wicked shot.

Her rapport with Walters in the water has become second nature. The two have been competing together for eight years between club and high school teams.

“We know exactly where each other is at all times,” McCardell said. “I can look at (Walters) and know exactly where she wants the ball and if she’s ready for it.

“We rely on each other 100 percent.”

Rio Mesa is much more than a two-girl team.

Senior goalkeeper Madison Wolfe is a three-year varsity player. Considered the squad’s resident comedian, Wolfe’s confidence in the cage has grown with each passing season.

Getting goals past Wolfe these days is like trying to crack the Da Vinci Code. It’s possible but darn difficult if left up to amateurs.

“I love playing on this team,” Wolfe said. “The girls are great. There’s no drama at all.”

Wolfe takes pride in directing the Spartans’ defense from her position in the cage. While she admits playing goalkeeper can become stressful at times, Wolfe knows she’s at her best when her confidence is through the roof.

“Sometimes I get down,” she said, “but I can’t let it affect me or the team. I have to stay focused and help everyone succeed.”

In addition to Walters, McCardell and Wolfe, Rio Mesa receives strong senior support from Emily Frasier, Mariah Powell, Cailin Abbott, Cassidy Kohnle and Carson, who scored four goals against Camarillo.

Sophomores Samantha Vasquez, Amanda Ozawa and Ventura have all played prominent roles early on and will likely be torchbearers for the program’s future success.

Juniors Hailey Richardson, Christina Tellez and Lauren Schroeder add quality depth to the roster. Schroeder is the backup goalkeeper.

Rio Mesa is carrying three freshmen on its varsity roster— Maeve Flynn, CeCe Karvon and Beth Arbon—a rarity for any Spartan squad.

Already this season, the Spartans have notched key wins over Ventura, Buena and Costa Mesa.

Ranked seventh in the CIF-SS Division 3 coaches’ poll, McKnett wants to see his team become more consistent on a match-by-match basis.

“We have so much potential,” the coach said. “When we are good, we’re awesome. When we’re bad, we’re not so awesome, not so good.

“Right now we’re fighting consistency. We’ve beaten some really good teams and played well against some great teams. We’ve been able to put teams away, and then the next day we play poorly.

“ We’re doing things the right way—conditioning hard, morning practices, running a lot of aggressive picks and giveand goes, good counterattacks,” McKnett said. “We’re doing the right stuff, and hopefully things will all come together for us.”

Sounds easy enough.

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