The reported tunnels, which the University City High Aquatics head coach is talking about, were dug on the Los Angeles campus in case of land invasion after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
What is the connection with spreading the gospel of water polo and swim for the Centurions? Maybe it’s about Vasquez, who once considered pursuing a career in law, going places no one else has been. And taking others where they’ve never been before.
“Like I told Evan Satre (his starting goalie at UCHS next fall): ‘Don’t tell me you want to be recruited by colleges, and then give me a half-baked workout. I can get you there, but you’re going to have to give everything.’”
The former Bonita Vista two-meter guard has just completed his first year coaching at UCHS, and he’s not looking to do things the way everybody else does.
“It’s thinking out of the box,” says the 5-foot-10-inch fireplug. “In San Diego, the center of water polo is Del Mar and La Jolla.” He aims to expand that to University City, City Heights, and beyond.
After eight years of coaching club water polo with San Diego Shores and Doug Peabody, who also coaches the Bishop’s school teams, this energetic 28-year-old wants a “new challenge”. “The coach at Patrick Henry reached out,” he reports. So he is working with athletes in the Poseidon Club program further inland.
But he is also taking the water sport outside its usual cultural bounds. “I just recruited three guys from City Heights,” he says during an animated late breakfast the day after school let out. “One said, ‘I don’t swim that well.’ I told him, ‘Sign up and go for it.’” That look in his eyes says he’s taking people places.
“My leaders at UC in the fall: Brock Kammerer will be my best player hands-down. He is my strongest swimmer. His top recruiting right now is coming from Air Force Academy. He has no idea of what’s ahead—the commitment, the demands.” Kammerer is a 6-foot, 180-pounder whose brother Cole now plays at the University of Redlands.
Another rising senior, Eric Orozco, “was my last year’s MVP. He will be utility. In water polo, it’s not like in baseball, where you aren’t good enough to start. Utility means he will play several of the six positions.” Orozco measures 5-feet-9-inches, 165 pounds. “He is my fastest player and second-leading scorer.”
Vasquez, his dark hair pulled back in a ponytail as he attacks fried eggs and hash browns between assessments of his players and explanations of his “out of the box” philosophy, describes Satre, his future goalie, as “a wall”. “He’s the biggest goalie in the county. He’s 6-foot-5-inches with a 6-foot-8-inch wingspan. With that height, I’m going to turn him into a NCAA prospect.”
When asked to compare him to Douglass Webster, the able goalie graduating from La Jolla High’s talented team this year, the coach says, “He’s going to be better.” Satre’s advantage: “He’s never been the starting goalie. He has always had someone in front of him. This is his year.” In other words, he wants it badly.
Next is Malachi Sanders, two-meter guard and primary defender, who plays the point on offense. “His job is to guard the biggest, meanest guy on defense. On offense, you’re the facilitator, the quarterback. Not the primary scorer.”
“He is always, always, always the first one back on defense.”
Finally, out of his top five leaders, comes Cooper Lynch. “He’s the two-meter set” (like the traditional center in basketball). “He’s my big boy, 6-feet, 210 pounds. He’s being recruited by Cal Baptist, which is no longer in the NAIA but NCAA Division 2. They’ve moved all their sports up to Division 2.”
Of the quintet for UCHS’s men’s team for next fall, Vasquez says, “They’re my top athletes. They all play year-round. They’re all collegiate prospects.”
Vasquez, who took the LSAT in preparation for entering law school after graduating from Occidental College five years ago, then quit his job a week later to commit himself to full-time coaching water polo (“which is what I love”) preaches a different collegial doctrine than “some older water polo coaches.”
“I’m friends with everybody,” he claims. “Some of the older ones say, ‘We’re cool, but you’re the coach for Bishop’s,’ ‘You’re the coach for La Jolla.’ They say they can’t be friends with opposing coaches because of the competitive factor.
“I’m different. I’m friends with Tom Atwell, the coach at La Jolla High. I’m friends with Brett Ormsby, the coach at Cathedral Catholic High School. We need to be working together. That’s the only way for us to move the sport of water polo ahead,” said Vasquez.
He said he’s actively recruiting middle school students in different areas, besides his chatting up of athletes from City Heights as well as students at University City.
“I’m fully bilingual, and I am using that to expand the sport,” says the former Bonita Vista Baron, saying he took a lifestyle cut from the chance to live in La Jolla or Fashion Valley to move back to Chula Vista.
In the process, he says he gave an assistant a pay raise for next year, so that she can better keep and post team statistics on MaxPreps to make them more available to college recruiters who are tracking his players: “We’re going to include goals, assists, but also saves” (in the case of his starting goalie Satre), he insists.