With the year coming to a close, there were more titles that were won and transcendent changes in the sports realm right here in the Lompoc Valley.
The Lee Central Coast Newspapers sports staff has chosen five key moments that highlight the year it was for the Lompoc Valley for 2018.
Here’s the list, beginning with numbers three through five:
No. 3: Another Taua terrorizes defenses in the college football world
This has a familiar sound in Reno, Nevada: The University of Nevada football running attack spearheaded by a Taua.
Vai Taua pummeled opponents with his physical running style from 2007 to 2010 in Reno while representing the Lompoc Valley. But this time, it was Toa Taua using that same brute strength and acceleration to end the regular season as the Mountain West Conference Freshman of the Year.
Taua grew up watching older brother Vai put together an All-Western Athletic Conference resume while he would often proudly wear a “My Brother Runs with the Pack” T-shirt while sitting inside Mackay Stadium.
And it didn’t take long for the new Taua to become revered inside the Wolf Pack’s home venue — and join the watch list for top MWC newcomer.
Taua threw a 73-yard touchdown pass and led the ‘Pack with 56 rushing yards in the 72-19 romp of Portland State to start the year. Then in week three of the ‘Pack’s season, Taua found the end zone for the first time in his early collegiate career on a 5-yard run during Nevada’s 37-35 home win over Oregon State.
But his biggest game arrived the following week inside Toledo University’s Glass Bowl.
Facing off against the defending Mid-American Conference (MAC) champions, Taua rumbled to season-high numbers of 170 yards and three touchdowns in the 63-44 loss to the Rockets.
From there, Taua went on to finish his first season at Nevada as the team’s leading rusher with 816 rushing yards. His six rushing touchdowns tied him for the team lead, sharing along with fellow Class of 2018 Nevada commit Devonte Lee.
No. 4: Lompoc’s Araujo ascends with the soccer ball
Julian Araujo continued to see new sights and careers through his soccer abilities and he eventually found a new galaxy.
The Los Angeles Galaxy 2, that is.
The Lompoc native completed his commitment and play for the Barca Academy in Casa Grande, Arizona before he found a new soccer home with the Major League Soccer (MLS) franchise’s developmental team during the summer.
At Barca Academy, he ended the year by adding this to his resume: The All-West Conference Best XI defender at right fullback and guiding his team to a third place finish in the U.S Soccer Developmental Academy. He accomplished that while playing for the developmental program for FC Barcelona and bunking in with fellow teammates and his coaches by calling the Academy his place of residence.
Then at the end of July, he landed a roster spot on the Galaxy’s second tier team. That move piqued the interest of his former high school coach Marco Vargas.
“It’s an exciting moment for him,” Vargas said back in July. “We would talk every other week about his plans and he told me the Galaxy was on the table. Barca is a huge name in the soccer world, but I feel L.A can open up the door to so much more.”
No. 5: Rough early waters in the Channel League
League games were no longer played in Santa Maria, Orcutt, Nipomo, Templeton or Morro Bay effective 2018-19 for the Lompoc Valley teams.
Instead, every Lompoc and Cabrillo High sports team required taking the hour long trek to Santa Barbara just to play in league contests — as new members of the Channel League. Both schools also had to welcome in league opponents that, similarly, needed an hour to get to LHS or CHS to compete in league matches.
Gone were the days of competing against teams representing the Santa Maria Valley or San Luis Obispo County — as the latter regions defected to the CIF Central Section for the 2018-19 sports campaign.
With the new league came new obstacles for the Lompoc Valley teams, especially for programs with a proud history of claiming consecutive Los Padres League titles or adding playoff appearances.
Cabrillo High boys water polo managed to keep its streak of playoff appearances alive — but not before struggling against the likes of Santa Barbara and Dos Pueblos in the Channel league. The Conquistadores settled for fifth in the league after completing year one in the C.L.
Lompoc High girls volleyball had a knack for competing for one of the available playoff spots in the now-old LPL. But the Braves managed to collect one league win as a new C.L member.
There was this shocker on the cross country trail, though, that even surprised CHS head boys cross country coach Mike Harnden: The Cabrillo boys went on to settle for second overall in the C.L. after collecting a chunk of points at the league finals meet. The Conqs finished a close second behind league champ Dos Pueblos.
“Coming into this, we were sitting in fourth in league. But I had high hopes for the team and I was like ‘You know what, they do run their butts off.’ For them to come in second, it just blows my mind. It really does,” Harnden said to Lee Central Coast Newspapers following the finals meet on Oct. 30.
Only Lompoc High football came out of the revamped league unscathed in its respective sport at 5-0 in its new league.
They left the LPL with just one league loss in the Andrew Jones era, which occurred in 2010 against Templeton. They arrived to the C.L shutting out their former LPL brethren Santa Ynez (21-0) and Cabrillo (63-0) then outscoring the Santa Barbara region schools by a combined score of 117-39 en route to another consecutive league championship.
Next: The top two sports stories in the Lompoc Valley for 2018.