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Dawgs rely on youth, veteran mix
Ceres High School's varsity girls soccer team has one of the youngest lineups in the Valley Oak League with six underclassmen, including Karina Manzo, Katie Herrera, Yanelli Espinoza, Anissa Torres, Brittany Valadez and Fabiana Soto.

"It's going to be a challenge," head coach Dominic Figueroa said. "We're so young but they are talented."

Torres (D/MF, So.) and Valadez (D, So.) are returners.

Herrera (MF, So.), Espinoza (D/MF, So.) and Karina Manzo (F/MF, So.) played for Figueroa at the frosh-soph level last year.

Soto (MF/F, Fr.) was in junior high.

The Bulldogs also bring back seven other varsity letter winners: Leah Rose (MF, Sr.), Nichole Fitch (G, Sr.), Daisy Manzo (D, Sr.), Estefania Hermosillo (MF, Jr.), Monika Martinez (D, Jr.), Vanessa Solis (D, Jr) and Jaspreet Basra (D, Jr.).

Brittany Solis (F, Jr.), Veronica Reyes (D, Jr.) and Maribel Gonzalez (MF/G, Jr.), 2009 frosh-soph members, are new to the team.

Rose, Hermosillo and Valadez share team-captain duties.

Leah earned second-team, all-league honors as a junior.

"They have qualities good leaders have," Figueroa said. "They're hard workers. They always ask questions. They're the kind of players that draw respect from their teammates."

The Bulldogs finished in seventh place in the VOL standings (3-11) last season.

Figueroa believes this year's team should be more competitive.

"I'll be disappointed if we don't get better," he said. "We're going to be a hard-working, disciplined team. That's our mantra."

The turnaround will not happen overnight. Ceres High's boys soccer program struggled before making the playoffs twice and winning the 2009 Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV title.

"They want the same thing," Figueroa said while talking about his team's long-term goal. "It's going to take continuous dedication and hard work."