For the past several weeks, Coach Larry Baratte has been singing the praises of his Ventura College water polo team, calling it the best in school history.
He might be on to something.
The Pirates (19-5-1), ranked second in the state, pulled off one of their biggest victories last Saturday, edging Golden West, 11-9, in the semifinals of the Cypress-Long Beach tournament.
Golden West (19-3-1) was ranked first in the state but dropped to third after the tournament. Grossmont (21-2-1), which defeated Ventura in the final, is ranked No. 1. But for Baratte and the Pirates, the victory over seven-time defending state champion Golden West was blissful.
"We had never beaten Golden West, according to the other three guys who coached water polo at Ventura before me," said Baratte, in his fourth season at Ventura, which first fielded a team in 1973. "It was huge for us. One of the things I saw afterward was that the kids had a lot of confidence that they can move on."
It was the fourth meeting this season between Ventura and Golden West. They tied, 10-10, at the Merced tournament in September and the Rustlers won the other two games. The Pirates also lost twice to Grossmont and once to sixth-ranked Cuesta (15-8-1).
Packing 'em in: Though his team lost to UCLA on Sunday in a Mountain Pacific Sports Federation soccer match at Cal State Northridge, Matador Coach Marwan Ass'ad was thrilled with his players' performance and the match's atmosphere.
On the field, Northridge (5-6-2) displayed strong defense and unselfish offense and played stride for stride with the powerful Bruins. In the stands, the soccer team drew 2,317 fans, almost a thousand more than the football team attracted last Friday night.
"It was clean, attacking soccer; it was great for the fans and great for soccer," said Ass'ad, who has voiced concern that his program might be eliminated to bolster football when Northridge becomes a member of the Big Sky Conference.
If Northridge, fifth in the division with three games to play, is able to finish second , it would advance to the MPSF's four-team postseason tournament. The tournament winner receives the conference's automatic berth in the NCAA Division I playoffs.
Running strong: The Thousand Oaks High boys' cross-country team is in a down year compared to the previous three seasons, yet the Lancers have a good chance to win their fourth consecutive Marmonte League title.
Seniors Todd Disney and Josh Carolan, the fourth and fifth runners on last year's team that won its third consecutive Southern Section and second consecutive state Division I titles, have given the Lancers a quality one-two punch. But juniors Eric Stoutenburg, Chris Jensen and John Barbachano and sophomore Jason Lu have supplied Thousand Oaks with the depth some expected it to lack.
"We've been working on cutting down the gap between Todd and Josh and the rest of the team," Coach Jack Farrell said. "If we continue to do that, we should have no problem [placing among the top three in] league and we could have a chance in the section meet."
Looks like a champ: Josh Blake, a swimmer at Cal State Northridge, has impressed his coaches this season by adding muscle through weight training.
"People are saying he looks like [Olympic gold medalist] Matt Biondi when he's just standing around," Northridge swimming Coach Barry Schreifels said. "Now he needs to look like him when he swims."
Actually, Blake is off to a good start. He won the 100-meter freestyle Sunday at Fresno in the Matadors' first meet.
By the Numbers
Valley College (6-0) is ranked second behind El Camino (5-0) in the junior college football state poll. The Monarchs received 230 points to El Camino's 241. Moorpark (5-1) is ranked 15th.
"If I gave tips on diving, they'd hurt themselves."
--Cal State Northridge men's and women's swimming Coach Barry Schreifels.
Things to Do
The undefeated Nordhoff High boys' cross-country team will attempt to win its eighth consecutive race of the season when the Rangers run on the first day of the Mt. San Antonio College Invitational this afternoon.
Nordhoff, the state's top-ranked Division III team, will be challenged by third-ranked St. Francis, fourth-ranked Corona del Mar and 10th-ranked San Francisco St. Ignatius.
Wagtimes Sprint Car Fans will hold a racing memorabilia auction and chili feed before the Saturday evening Sprint Car Racing Assn. program at Ventura Speedway. Chili will be served from noon to 4 p.m, with the auction starting at 1:30 p.m. and racing at 7.
Items to be auctioned include autographed photos of Bobby Unser, and a T-shirt signed by retired NASCAR driver Harry Gant.
Contributing: Fernando Dominguez, Darin Esper, Jeff Fletcher, Paige A. Leech, John Ortega, Tris Wykes.