Irvine or Woodbridge?
League play begins this week and next for teams in Orange County, and the two Sea View League girls' basketball teams will be meeting under different circumstances when they try to decide this year's league champion, making theirs one of the more intriguing races to watch.
They shared the league title last year, Woodbridge winning the last game of the season, leaving most of the Vaqueros in tears. It was another heartache in Irvine's quest for credibility.
So Irvine beefed up its schedule this season and has already won games that last year it was losing--such as its victory against Rosary on Kristen Thawley's basket at the buzzer at the Orange County Championship. The Vaqueros have beaten No. 2 San Clemente, No. 5 Troy (when it was No. 1), No. 7 Rosary (twice) and No. 10 Foothill, and have played No. 1 Esperanza, as well as Harbor City Narbonne.
And Woodbridge? It's the team whose schedule has been more suspect. But the Warriors have certainly been dominant, having played only two games decided by fewer than 17 points, a 45-40 victory against Norco in the season opener, and a 61-53 victory over Westminster on Saturday. Woodbridge's one game against a top-10 team in Orange County was a 61-44 victory over Edison in the title game of the Woodbridge tournament in the first week of the season.
"I feel the teams we've played have been good teams. In fact, if you look at the depth of our schedule, it's similar to last year--the kids are just playing better basketball," said Tracy Roberts, Woodbridge's associate coach. "Every position has played better basketball than last year."
So if Woodbridge is better, and Irvine is better. . . .
The moment of truth will be Jan. 23, when they meet for the first time, and it wouldn't be surprising if Woodbridge is 19-0 coming into that game.
The Sea View League isn't the only high-powered league that should be close. There are three top-10 teams in the Sunset League. Kelsey Ball, bothered by a chronic ankle injury, has yet to play for Huntington Beach, but when she is teamed with Amy Sanders the Oilers can easily compete with No. 9 Edison and top-ranked Esperanza.
Esperanza turned its loss to Laguna Hills into a positive with impressive victories against Troy and San Clemente--which were ranked Nos. 1 and 2 at the time--on consecutive nights, as well as a victory over Foothill.
Edison has been boosted lately by the play of Rachael Ziemann, who got off to a slow start. Ziemann and her sister Bianca make the Chargers formidable.
Capistrano Valley, expected to challenge San Clemente in the South Coast League, got off to a slow start but showed signs of life by reaching the finals of the Marina tournament last week. They face each other Tuesday.
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Academy: Capistrano Valley Christian
Empire: El Dorado
Garden Grove: Pacifica
Golden West: Westminster
Olympic: Calvary Chapel
Orange: Brea Olinda
Pacific Coast: Corona del Mar
Sea View: Irvine
South Coast: San Clemente