At 6 in the morning, they wake up to chase down the Los Padres League boys water polo title – plus stay ready for the rising water polo programs that are gunning for them.
Nothing has changed for Cabrillo High in the pool, as the Conquistadores still remain among the favorites to win the LPL title every season and make a CIF Southern Section playoff push. It’s been that way at Vandenberg Village since the days of Bob Boyer, Joel Jory and recent Hall-of-Famer Bob Lawrence.
But returning senior Olat Luna knows that there are several programs that are up early trying to stop the Conqs from league supremacy.
“Right now, we’re working really hard trying to get that league title. But so is everyone in our league,” Luna said during Thursday’s practice. “We’re getting up early in the morning to see what we can do. We get up in the morning trying to beat the other schools. We know they’re working as hard as us, so we have to top that even more.”
Last season, the Conqs found themselves third in the LPL standings – with Nipomo and unbeaten league champion Santa Ynez in front of the traditional water polo power.
Luna, who is in his third season on varsity, has taken on a leadership initiative for this year’s team.
“I try to inspire the guys,” Luna said. “When the guys get tired, I tell them to keep going. Plus I’m trying to stay on top of things. Sometimes they get a little goofy, but I keep things straight.
“We keep our eyes on the prize and go for that league title. We can have fun, but as long as we get our work done first.”
Head coach Jeff Dacus is another one who is noticing a tougher playing field for the Conqs. The CIF champion former player, who has coached the Conqs since 2013, says the LPL across the board has improved.
“Santa Ynez is always tough. Nipomo is right there too. Then you got teams like Santa Maria, Lompoc and Morro Bay that are all improving in the water all the time,” Dacus said. “Everyone is a threat, really. You can’t take anyone lightly in the Los Padres League.”
But it’s still not making Dacus shy away from sharing his excitement about this year’s Conqs.
“I’m pretty excited. They’re a hard-working group,” Dacus said. “Being the JV coach for awhile, I was still with these guys a lot. My role hasn’t really changed with these guys. They’re a good group. They want to win. They’re winners at heart and will do whatever it takes to get to the top.”
Outside of Luna, Dacus said he’ll be banking on Garrett Stanton, Josh Rowe and Isaac Thomas to lead the polo charge.
“We have good young players and good leadership. I think the senior leadership is going to be good this year,” Dacus said.
Luna cites the sophomore Rowe as a player to watch in the pool this fall saying: “Rowe is really good. He’s a sophomore and I think he’s better than me. It pushes me even harder.”
He’s also inspired by Dacus and his work ethic as a coach.
“He’s like a role model for me. He wakes up in the morning to sacrifice time for us. He’s been doing so much for the program,” Luna said.
In the end, Luna is one of many Conquistador swimmers who want to end the year with a return to the top of the league standings, plus earn a CIF title ring.
“We want it incredibly bad,” Luna said. “It’s like my dream goal.”