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While the smoke and ash from the Thomas fire have slowly evaporated in the Lompoc Valley, the local prep soccer coaches are still taking precautions on how to go about practices underneath the 805 sky.

All four have tried to work their way into the gym for indoor sessions for their teams – while sharing the venue with the basketball programs. Others like Cabrillo boys soccer have started to give the field a try – but with careful caution being encouraged by athletic director Dan Troup.

At Cabrillo High, head boys soccer coach Oscar Torres held a meeting with his team before heading out to test the elements on Tuesday afternoon.

“I talked to my A.D and was given the green light. If my guys complained about the smoke and had trouble breathing, I was told to call it off immediately,” Torres said by phone on Tuesday afternoon. “We’ve been trying to push practice, but with the fire and the information from the school district, we’ve been very careful.”

Torres’ team was set to take on Santa Maria in a Dec. 12 duel between the two best teams in the Los Padres League one season ago – but the fire forced that game to be called off. Torres, who is in his second season with running the varsity team, says he’s dealing with a group that’s been chomping at the bit to get more practice time in.

“They’re frustrated,” Torres said. “They really want to get to work. And we’re trying to work. But I told them that if we stick to our plan, we’ll be OK.”

Cabrillo girls soccer has taken some time off. But head coach Derrick Wong told The Times that they have a Saturday indoor practice that could be finalized. Wong’s team did manage to squeeze in a future trip to the Ontario Christian Tournament down in the Inland Empire starting on Dec. 27 – with CHS’s first scheduled contest against Montclair.

Down at Lompoc High, head boys soccer coach Marco Vargas has used the downtime for his guys to get healthy. Although the Braves managed to get a non-league battle against Pioneer Valley on Monday night in Santa Maria – with the Panthers winning that one 4-1. Vargas said afterwards that it was the first time his team saw the soccer field in two weeks because of the Thomas fire.

“We were just hoping to get these guys back into shape and back into playing, especially for these guys who are hurt and trying to come back from injuries,” Vargas said after the Monday contest.

Braves head girls soccer coach Jason Cochrane has implemented weight room time, video time and blacktop time for his team – as practices have focused on film study and then strength and conditioning, with the latter drills taking place outside of the weight room. Cochrane had his team out by the outdoor basketball courts on Monday.

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“This is our third practice in seven days – so it’s not a lot,” Cochrane said during Monday’s practice. “But we’ve gotten in some video time. We’ve been videotaping our matches. We were able to revisit our Oxnard match and our St. Joseph match and do some touching up from that aspect.

“It’s been more about film study for us and brushing up our tactical play,” Cochrane continued. “Plus we hit the weight room for strengthening. It’s stuff that keeps us from being physically outdoors. We were able to get some indoor play in last week – which was extremely beneficial because the pace and the tempo were a lot faster in there.”

Cochrane, though, says he reaches out to girls basketball head coach Claudia Terrones daily to see when the Bryan Ayer Court is available.

“Every morning, I’m shooting a text out to Claudia and ask what the gym schedule is like. Then she will shoot me a message back saying what’s available and then get whatever we can get,” Cochrane said.

Like Torres at Cabrillo, Cochrane has had an eager team that’s been craving to play a game again.  

“The girls have been hungry. Anytime we can train or get anything where we’re together, they’ve been all about it,” Cochrane said. “Everyone is going to be fighting this. We’re not the only one. There are a lot of teams that are dealing with this.”