Eighteen — the next big number the Cabrillo girls swimming team is looking to reach.

That number represents 18 straight Los Padres League championships, as this team currently sits at claiming 17 consecutive league titles that help fill the entrance inside the CHS gym.

Head coach Scott Alvarez, who has taught at CHS for 18 years and has coached swimming for 17, says he uses the goal for 18 as a motivational tactic for this year’s CHS swimmers.

“I use that for pressure,” Alvarez said during the CHS versus Lompoc swim meet last Friday. “I tell them ‘You don’t want to be the first team to not repeat it.’ That’s an ongoing thing when they walk into a room and see all the plaques up there. They never want to be that first team to not get a plaque. So I think they put a lot of pressure on themselves and they step up to it.”

Cabrillo has seen its share of past aquatic stars move on after wrapping up the LPL title. Yet, Alvarez knows he gets plenty to work with for the following season — and cites four returners he’s real high on this spring.

“Nicole Zarinian. She’s a four-year letterman. I also have Gretchen Von Protz, Ashlyn Wiswall and Mary Rhodes. But everyone specializes in a certain stroke,” Alvarez said. “Personalities are always different and teams are always changing. You have your basic philosophy of coaching, but then you have to feed into where the team is at that point and what their personalities are and kind of play with that.”

He also likes the revolving door that the graduating seniors leave behind for the next crop of CHS swimmers.

“A lot of it deals with senior leadership. They’ve gone through the program and they’ve seen how players react and do things. So the program kind of runs itself,” Alvarez said. “Every year, the juniors and I always think ‘I don’t know what’s going to happen next year.’ And the juniors usually step it up their senior year.”

Now, the goal is to keep bringing the team LPL title back to Constellation Road.

“Coaching the girls is awesome because you never really know what you’re going to get and they’re competitors. They hate to lose,” Alvarez said. “We preach ‘Don’t come in last.’ It’s a team thing.”

Boys swimming

It’s a young group that head coach Jeff Dacus has this spring — but a group that comes in with a workman-like approach in the pool.

“These guys are hard workers. They just do whatever they’re told. I just love coaching them,” Dacus said.

Dacus has no more than five seniors on this year’s team, but cites returners Josh Rowe and Olat Luna as his returning standout swimmers.

Dacus, who also coaches boys varsity water polo in the fall, says some of his guys don’t take breaks in the water during the winter — as they link up with the Lompoc Tsunami swim team to stay in shape for the spring haul.

“During the winter break I don’t see them. We do have a couple who do Tsunami swimming and you can see it pays off in their strokes and that kind of stuff,” Dacus said.

He adds that he aims to get a majority of his swimmers to Tsunami for extra work during the brief break between fall and spring.

“We try to push as many kids as we can to them,” Dacus said. “If Tsunami is going to run year round swimming, then we can get guys to get a little extra yardage in – and that’s a beautiful thing.”

While there may be a lot more youth and inexperience on this year’s roster, Dacus concludes that not a whole lot changes for him and the Conqs.

“It is a pretty young group. But it’s the same workouts and same work ethic to get going,” Dacus said.