The Mira Costa girls’ water polo team moved up to No. 12 in the CIF-Southern Section Division 1/2 Poll this week and is having one its strongest starts in recent years.

“Entering a higher division for us has definitely been a big challenge to take on, but I am confident our team has been putting in the practice and working hard to make it far this season," said Mira Costa’s Celeste Almendariz.

“I believe we are playing pretty good right now,” said Mira Costa girls’ water polo head coach Jon Reichardt. “We have beaten some good teams but we have a tough remaining schedule.”

The Mustangs are currently 10-2 overall and are coming off a Bay League victory over Peninsula.

“We have been conditioning like crazy in preparation for the remainder of season,” said the coach. “We are entirely focused on making the playoffs and nothing else. As long as we go that is all that is important.”

Helping the team get off to its good start are its captains Almendariz and Leigh Lyter.

“I think this season our team has had some great wins against really competitive teams that have given us some great competition,” Almendariz said. “I think these wins against high level teams are giving us great momentum as we enter Bay League. I hope to continue to keep up the great momentum and continue improving as a team overall.”

Lyter has been a force on offense the last few years.

“This season has been going very well and we have beaten many high-ranked Division 1/2 teams,” Lyter said. “During every practice, the girls are dedicated to improving and expanding their skill set. As a team, we have set multiple goals to achieve during our season in order to ensure that we are a top competitor in our division.”

Reichardt had nothing but compliments for the captains.

“They are fantastic. Probably some of the best captains I have had as a coach.”

Any team is only as good as its goalie and Mira Costa senior goalie Erin O Donnell is doing a fine job in front of the net. Sophomore Bailey Tibbets is O’Donnell’s backup.

Some of Mira Costa’s other top players are Maiken Pardon, Charlee Wickemeyer and Izabel Smid.

Their best win to date was over Harvard Westlake.

“We played pretty good but still have a ton of improvements to get to,” Reichardt said. “We did win which propelled us up in the rankings.”

“I was really excited to play them since it is always a close game when we play,” said Mira Costa’s Dylan Read. “They’re a solid team but we were able to shut them down on defense and our offense was pretty solid."

The team is looking to defend its Bay League title and return to the finals in back-to-back years.

“We feel really optimistic about how we are playing together and are ready to continue this momentum throughout the season,” said Elizabeth Terry.

They are on a seven-game win streak. Terry scored three goals to led the Mustangs to their latest win, 14-5, on January 9 against Peninsula in a Bay League contest.

Lyter led Mira Costa with four goals. Terry added three and so did Smid. Almendariz and Pardon scored twice. Wickemeyer had three assists and Read two.

"We really played well defensively during this game,” Wickemeyer said. “It allowed us to practice our skills that we have focused on the past few weeks. Keeping strong defensively allowed us to counter quickly and steal the ball."

“I think during this game we did not start as strong as we were hoping, but we were able to regroup and finish well,” Lyter said. “This game was great practice for our other upcoming Bay League games.”

Mira Costa played at Palos Verdes on Wednesday and this weekend will participate in America’s Finest City Invitational in San Diego.

Then back to Bay League action against rival and No. 21 ranked Redondo Union next Tuesday in Redondo Beach at 3 p.m. That matchup will be a big step in deciding who this year’s Bay League champion will be.

Contact Lisa Jacobs lisa.jacobs@TBRnews.com or follow her on Twitter @lisaannjacobs.

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