Volleyball team’s patchwork of athletes reinvigorates program

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It’s a good year for the El Capitan’s boys’ volleyball team. In fact, now it has several good years under its belt.

After winning the Silver Division at the Sweetwater Tournament in March, the Vaqueros ploughed through the season with the best start in the school’s history, with a 9-5 record in nonconference play.

But the Vaqueros unsuccessful past turned around largely due to a new approach towards recruiting.

It’s a good year for the El Capitan’s boys’ volleyball team. In fact, now it has several good years under its belt.

After winning the Silver Division at the Sweetwater Tournament in March, the Vaqueros ploughed through the season with the best start in the school’s history, with a 9-5 record in nonconference play.

But the Vaqueros unsuccessful past turned around largely due to a new approach towards recruiting.

“Boys volleyball around San Diego County, especially in East County, is not very big,” said Vaqueros head coach Jason Cavasos. “That’s where I’ve been somewhat successful because I’m a basketball coach on campus so I get all my basketball players to play to help with their jumping and all that.”

Cavasos said the program has been underdeveloped at El Capitan until recently.

“It’s more of a female sport at this school,” he said. “So getting the boys to buy into it has been challenging. A lot of these kids have never even played. So I drag them into it and get them to enjoy it and we have a lot of fun.”

Cavasos, the  basketball coach since 1999, said he was recruited five years ago to run the volleyball program. Things began to turn around.

“We won League Championship for the first time in school history,” he said. “We never even made the playoffs before. We’ve made the playoffs every year since I’ve been in. That’s just because I got all my basketball kids to come out.”

Most of the players normally wear soccer, basketball or football jerseys, Cavasos said. Only the team captain, Vaquero junior Dylan Curtis, plays club volleyball.

“He’s the guy that gels everyone together,” said Cavasos of Curtis, who has been playing on the varsity team since his freshman year.

Curtis said he thinks the team is competitive.

“We won league last year and we moved up to D3,” he said. “For a team that’s not really volleyball oriented, we’re pretty good. We’re definitely in the running for league.”

Although the team lost a few close games against Helix and Steele Canyon, Curtis said they are set to meet the challenge of competitive league matches.

“We started playing teams that weren’t quite at our level so we had to work a little harder,” he said. “We’re going up against our rival West Hills on Wednesday and we’re planning on taking it from them.”

On the court, Curtis is vocal. He sounds part team captain, part cheerleader, ordering and exhorting his teammates during matches. But off the court, Curtis gushed with pride as he described his fellow Vaqueros athletes-turned volleyball aficionados.

“We’ve definitely picked up on middle,” he said. “Colton Sandoval and Sergio Munoz are a big help this year. Sergio is definitely getting really good at passing and Colton with his jumping ability is able to get up and shut down blockers from the other team. He does a good job.”

Sandoval, a disenchanted baseball player who Curtis recruited to the team this season, said Curtis makes a good leader.

“Dylan is hard on himself and he’s really hard on others,” he said. “He pushes you and he doesn’t let you slide.”

Curtis’ intensity has a balancing effect on Cavasos more laid-back approach to managing the team.

“Basketball is my sport and I’m passionate about that,” said Cavasos. “Volleyball is my fun sport. That makes it even better for me because the stress level is down. And then it trickles down into the kids because they see me as a basketball coach and then in volleyball. I think that plays a big role in how I get the most out of these kids because they see both sides of me as a coach.”

Not that the Vaqueros are not competitive. El Capitan plans to make their way into playoffs again, said Cavasos, but learning and having fun takes a priority.

“I think there are no expectations for these kids,” he said. “They just come in having fun so if they mess up they’re not worried. Who cares if you mess up as long as we get better. As the season goes on, it gets a little more serious because you want to win. I think that’s helpful for us here at El Cap.”

The Vaqueros take on their rivals, the West Hills Wolf Pack, on Wednesday, April 6, but Cavasos is staying the course of education and edification.

“We’re just trying to get better no matter who we play and hopefully by the end of the season we’re in tip top shape and we’re the best we can be,” he said. “So, to me, it’s not about who we play it’s just about getting better.”

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