What figures to be a very competitive weekend begins at 9 a.m. this morning when the Western State Conference water polo championships opens at City of Ventura aquatics center.
"It's a pretty level playing field," said Ventura men's coach Mark Schmidt.
"It's going to come down to a couple goals here and there," Ventura women's coach Larry Baratte said. "It's going to be competitive and that's the way it should be."
After unbeaten WSC campaigns, the Los Angeles Valley men (12-9) and Los Angeles Pierce women (10-4) are the top seeds
The Ventura College men (15-8) are the No. 3 seed and faces No. 2 Cuesta (24-10) in the 12:45 p.m. semifinal.
"It's a little bit unusual to play them in the first round," Schmidt said. "I don't know if I've done that in a long time. But we typically know we have to play Valley and Cuesta, if we want to win a championship."
The Ventura men have won 11 of 12 matches since Oct. 10, the only loss coming 10-9 to Valley on Oct. 17.
"We're confident," Schmidt said. "We've been playing well. This is how you want to be playing going into the tournament... We feel like we have a chance."
The four-time defending champion Ventura College women (13-9) are the No. 2 seed and hosts either No. 3 Los Angeles Valley (17-8) or No. 6 Santa Monica (8-16) in the 3:15 p.m. semifinal.
"We're healthy, so I think we're ready to go," Baratte said. "We've had the bug bites, concussions and illnesses... We've had our share of distractions."
But the Pirates, who have enjoyed excellent seasons from sophomores like Olivia Barry and Emily Pinsky, have experience winning a title from the No. 2 seed. They achieved the feat a year ago.
"It's about them," Baratte said, "winning it for themselves and winning it for each other."
The championship matches will be held at Rio Mesa High Saturday at 1 p.m. and 2:45 p.m.