‘Dig for the Cure’: La Jolla High School water polo players are victorious in … volleyball?

For the first time, the varsity boys water polo team bests the varsity girls volleyball team to benefit breast cancer research.


For the first time in the four years they’ve played each other, the La Jolla High School varsity boys water polo players defeated the varsity girls volleyball players in a volleyball match to raise money for breast cancer research.

The win came days ahead of the annual “Tangle in the Tank,” in which the water polo team will take on La Jolla High football players in a game of water polo at 3:45 p.m. Monday, Oct. 10, at the Coggan Family Aquatic Complex on the LJHS campus.

Both events are fundraisers for the Susan G. Komen breast cancer foundation.

The annual volleyball matchup, called “Dig for the Cure,” was held in the LJHS gym Oct. 5. Both teams traded their usual black and red uniforms for pink T-shirts, pink hair dye and more as a boisterous crowd cheered them on.

The water polo players don’t practice volleyball ahead of time, so they were given a handicap: two points per score instead of the usual one.

The teams played three sets. The first was played to 25 points and went to the volleyball girls, 25-14.

The second set, played to 15 points, went to the water polo team, 15-12.

The final set, also to 15 points but with the elimination of the boys’ handicap after they reached 10 points, also went to the water polo players, 15-13.

It was the boys’ first “Dig for the Cure” victory.

“They [the volleyball players] smash us every time,” said LJHS water polo coach Tom Atwell.

A volleyball match between the junior varsity water polo boys and the JV volleyball girls went to the girls, as it has for four years now.

Atwell and his wife, Utahna, are both cancer survivors, and he promotes fundraising events like “Dig for the Cure” and “Tangle in the Tank,” along with his yearly 100-mile run to raise cancer awareness.

“You don’t have to look very far” to find others affected by cancer, he said. Water polo player Levi Epperson’s mother, Jessi, is a two-time breast cancer survivor.

Jessi Epperson, who received a clean bill of health in July, said Levi’s participation with his teammates in several fundraisers to raise awareness and funds for breast cancer research makes her pride in her son and their membership in the water polo community “that much more meaningful.”

“I greatly appreciate Coach Atwell introducing this cause and these fun events to the boys,” she said. “Cancer of any kind is scary, and because my son fights for [the cause] beyond my illness brings me extreme joy.”

LJHS has raised more than $2,600 for Susan G. Komen as of Oct. 7. For more information, visit