Dominance has become the trademark of the Moorpark College women's softball team.
The Lady Raiders' dominance in the Western State Conference is well known. Three of the past four seasons, Moorpark has won the conference title.
But Moorpark is also dominant at home. The Lady Raiders have won 34 consecutive home games in the past five seasons and have not lost a WSC home game during Will Thurston's five seasons as coach.
But although the defending conference-champion Lady Raiders have had their share of success recently, Thurston is far from satisfied. The goal of a state championship still eludes Moorpark, which has never even qualified for the state tournament.
"A state title is something that I would love to see this program accomplish," Thurston said. "I definitely think about it. I think about things that I could have done differently to get us to that next level."
The Lady Raiders fell short again last year after San Diego Mesa College eliminated them in the best-of-three series in the Southern California regional playoffs.
Little had gone wrong for Moorpark until the regional playoffs, however. The team was undefeated in 12 WSC games and finished 26-12-1 overall.
So what's going to get Moorpark to the state tournament this season?
"I think we have more depth this season than we have ever had, including last year," Thurston said. "It also doesn't hurt having your top pitcher coming back."
Sophomore De Dow, the WSC Pitcher of the Year last season, leads a staff bolstered by addition of sophomore Rosa Jimenez, who transferred to Moorpark from Cal Lutheran.
Dow, who was 18-6, 10-0 in WSC games last season, will be joined by Jimenez and freshman Danielle Devan, an All-Marmonte League pitcher from Royal High.
Jimenez, who will start in center field and pitch for Moorpark, led Cal Lutheran in batting, runs batted in and doubles last season. Thurston said Jimenez left Cal Lutheran in order to enhance her chances of being recruited by a Division I college.
"She felt like she could play at a school with more recognition as far as Division I or Division II colleges are concerned," Thurston said.
Shortstop Julie Myers is the only sophomore in an infield dominated by freshmen. Sophomore Jamie McDaniel, who was second in batting last season at .345 and led the team in doubles with six, anchors the Moorpark outfield.
Moorpark lost its top catcher, Malia Ouzts, to graduation. Ouzts established four team offensive records last season and led the team in batting (.434).
Thurston expects to start freshman Missy Cress from Royal High at catcher.
If Moorpark has a weakness, it appears to be speed.
The Lady Raiders lost their top base-stealer in Ouzts, who now attends Cal State Fullerton. Ouzts set a single-season school record for stolen bases (52) in 1987.
Unlike Moorpark, Coach Susan Johnson of Ventura has an inexperienced squad this season. The Lady Pirates have only two returning sophomores--outfielders Mary Sliger and Becky Berry.
What Ventura does have is a lot of questions about a team that finished last in conference play with a 2-10 record last season.
"It was a long year," Johnson said. "The women I have this season have the experience they need and a different attitude. They want to win."
Ventura's roster is dominated by freshmen, but the team also has depth at pitcher.
Sophomore Chanda Cummings and freshman Lisa Turner are expected to start and freshmen Kasie Hammond and Michelle Allison, both from Buena High, will pitch in relief.
Johnson has other talented players in freshman Teri Bath, a catcher-shortstop from Ventura High, and freshman shortstop Tracy Scoggins.
"We have a young team, but I think there are some real talented players," Johnson said.
Johnson hopes that the addition of Valley College to the WSC will help offset Moorpark's traditional dominance.
"I think we will soon see an end to the dominance that Moorpark has had," Johnson said. "Hopefully, we will be a more well-rounded conference and not just have one team at the top every year."
Both Moorpark and Ventura started nonconference play this week.