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A Fresh Start
Ceres High's and Central Valley's fall sports teams started practicing last week.

Koeurn Phe, head coach of the Bulldogs' varsity boys soccer team, held tryouts Tuesday through Friday. Ceres High, which defeated crosstown rival Central Valley 2-0 for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV crown a season ago, lost its top three players (Luis Martinez, David Estrada and Kyle Cerny) to graduation.

"We want to sustain the momentum," Koeurn said. "We want to defend our title. Until we get beat, we're still the team to be reckoned with."

The Bulldogs reached record heights under Phe's guidance, tallying 32 wins, seven losses and six ties the past two seasons. Ceres High won the section title after losing in the finals in 2008.

Ceres High's varsity girls tennis is also facing a rebuilding year.

Four of seven starters graduated, including three-time Valley Oak League singles champion McKenzy Harden and 2009 conference finalist Angie Prak.

Harden and Prak helped lead the Bulldogs to back-to-back league titles and three consecutive playoff appearances. Ceres High compiled a program-best 20-5 overall record last season.

"It's not going to be easy to replace those girls," head coach Bryan Harden said. "We'll compete. We're not going to get walked over. I'm not going to let that happen."

Harden plans to keep 25 players, including potential No. 1 Marifer Ochoa. She's just a freshman.

Marifer's older brother Luis won back-to-back VOL titles while starring on Ceres High's varsity boys tennis team.

Ryan Norton, Kaycee Creek, Christin Ornells, Ashton Frampton, Cailan Gaede and Kelly Gallagher will provide experience for the Bulldogs.

Norton and Creek combined to win 16 of 22 matches at No. 1 doubles last season.

Ornells and 2010 Ceres High graduate Rachel Stump amassed a 15-7 record while teaming at No. 2 doubles.

Norton, Creek, Ornells, Frampton, Gaede and Gallagher all played during the Bulldogs' loss in the opening round of the 2009 Sac-Joaquin Section Division II tournament.

"I still think we can make the playoffs," coach Harden said.

Ceres High's varsity football team hasn't had a winning record or participated in the playoffs since 2004.

The Bulldogs are hoping for a complete turnaround this season.

Head coach Brett Johnson spoke to his players midway through Tuesday's practice.

"How many of you believe we can win? How many of you want to win? How many of you are willing to put in the effort on a daily basis? Motivate, encourage and elevate everyone around you," Johnson said.

The Bulldogs had a combined record of 2-28 for the past three seasons.

Central Valley football is coming off a 4-6 season.

The 2010 Hawks will be led by returnees Abraham Navarro (quarterback), Tyree Jones (running back/defensive back) and Greg Mathews (receiver/safety/linebacker).

"We should be a playoff team this year," said Mathews, who partnered with 2009 JV standout Greg Tripp during Monday's form tackling drill. "We have a lot more talent."

Added Hawks head coach Tim Garcia: "This could be the fastest and most athletic team we've put on the field. We got the opportunity to get over the hump. We just have to worry about ourselves and prepare as much as we can."

Said Jones: "I think we can get a lot more wins. We're trying to get better every day."

Central Valley's varsity boys soccer team has won back-to-back VOL titles and participated in the playoffs three times under head coach Omar Leon's guidance.

"We've been progressing since I've been here," he said prior to the start of Wednesday's practice.

The Hawks should be just as competitive this year because they return VOL MVP Jose Ramirez, and all-conference honorees Larry Hernandez, Daniel Ochoa and Gerardo Cazares.

"We're not underestimating anybody," Leon said.

Central Valley had a bitter end to the 2009 season. The Hawks had to settle for runner-up honors at the section tournament after losing to Ceres High.

"They're very motivated," said Leon, who plans to hold tryouts this week.

Central Valley's varsity volleyball program has a new head coach.

Amy Castillo, a 2003 graduate of Patterson High School, directed the Hawks' lower-level team last year.

On Wednesday, Central Valley players cycled through a conditioning circuit consisting of pushups, crunches, leg lifts, squats and lunges.

"It's going to be a long three months," Castillo stated. "But it's going to be fun."

Central Valley and Ceres High both changed leagues as part of realignment.

The switch from the Valley Oak League to the Western Athletic Conference means less traveling will be required for road games.

The Bulldogs and Hawks will compete against Central Catholic, Livingston, Patterson, Los Banos and Pacheco.

"Every team is a threat," Phe said. "It's going to be a challenge."

"It's still a tough league," Ceres High linebacker Hadon Lopez said. "We still got to play Central Catholic and Patterson."

Other sports being played this fall include water polo, cross country and girls golf.