Mahlena O’Neal, Nicole Bates, Sabrina Baisdon, Mackenzie Veuve and Jessica Arreola arrived on campus four years ago.
Teammates on Ceres High’s varsity softball team since the ninth grade, O’Neal and Co. reached the pinnacle of their sport by winning the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-III crown on May 26 in Sacramento.
“I’m not going to lie,” said O’Neal, Ceres High’s power-hitting catcher. “There was a lot of pressure on us. When we didn’t win the WAC championship freshman year, we felt like we let everybody down. We really wanted to win a section title. We wouldn’t be satisfied with anything less. We finally did it. It’s so special.”
“It means everything to us,” said Bates, Ceres High’s star leadoff hitter/shortstop. “We knew we had the talent to do it. We just had to play well together. Everything fell into place.”
Ceres High won its second section crown, ending a 21-year drought between titles.
The Bulldogs captured the Division-II championship in 1995.
Ceres High had to settle for runner-up honors in 1993, 1991 and 1989.
“We left behind a legacy,” O’Neal said. “We’ll be remembered.”
Ceres High beat Benicia twice, and Oakdale, Pioneer and American Canyon once on its way to claiming the Division-III banner this spring.
Third-seeded Ceres High outlasted No. 5 Benicia 3-2 in the finals at the Sacramento Softball Complex.
“We all cried after the game,” O’Neal said. “I don’t know if they were tears of joy or sadness. There was a mix of emotions. It’s over. I won’t step on the field with my best friends ever again. It’s heartbreaking.”
“It’s very bittersweet,” Bates said. “It’s our last game together. I love those girls. We’ll stay in touch.”
“I wanted them to win so badly,” said Angela Durossette, Ceres High’s head coach for the past two seasons. “They’re just as competitive as I am. I couldn’t play for them.”
O’Neal, Bates, Baisdon and Veuve led the Bulldogs to 85 victories, one section championship, three WAC titles and four playoff appearances.
Arreola, who was promoted from junior varsity midway through her freshman year, filled a key role as well.
“The senior players are so special to me,” Durossette said. “They came to my classroom almost daily. I’m going to miss that. That’s going to be a hard void to fill. I’m so proud of what they accomplished.”
“It was a sisterhood,” O’Neal said. “We have a bond that will never be broken.”
O’Neal and Bates will continue their softball careers at the University of Georgia and the University of Washington, respectively.
Baisdon, Veuve and Arreola will focus on academics at Fresno State, Sacramento State and Cal State Fullerton.
“They’ve given a lot to the school in a lot of ways,” Ceres High standout junior pitcher Callie Nunes said. “I’m never going to forget playing with those girls. I won a section title with my best friends. It’s something nobody can take away from us.”
Added O’Neal: “There’s no other high school I would have rather played for.”