Ceres High’s and Central Valley’s girls volleyball teams will both compete with new-look rosters this fall as a combined 16 players were lost to graduation.
“New coach,” said Courtney Dayoff, first-year leader of the Hawks. “New team. We’re not the same Hawks as last year.”
“We’re not going to use the excuse we’re a young team,” Bulldogs’ fifth-year head coach Kelly Heese said. “Every time they step on the court, I want them to grow and compete.”
Ceres High returns no players from last year’s team.
Starters Dominique Arendt, Jazmyne Arendt, Jada Harris, Sehren Martinez, Abi Prado and Ally Strehl graduated in June.
The Bulldogs’ 2023 roster features 10 players: Alana Inahara (Jr.), Ava Montesdeoca (Jr.), Mariah Zamora (Jr.), Ellie Tigerino (Jr.), Isabella Bravo (So.), Sovannary Carter (So.), Brisya Juarez (So.), Amaia Ferrel (So.), Jadyn Garcia (Fr.) and Priya Martinez (Fr.).
“This group of girls has a ton of potential if they will set their mind to it,” Heese said. “They are so competitive.”
Heese hasn’t named team captains for this season.
“Nobody has earned that yet,” she said.
Central Valley returns just two players in Amerie De La Torre (Sr.) and Jannet Valencia (Sr.).
The Hawks have 13 newcomers: Natalie Acosta (Sr.), Llarely Gutierrez (Sr.), Daniela Rodriguez Larios (Sr.), Jocelyn Munoz (Sr.), Emily Pulido (Sr.), Jessica Ramos (Sr.), Yaneli Ramos (Sr.), Briann Tavares (Sr.), Jayden Corona (Jr.), Marion Dennison (Jr.), Tanveer Kaur (Jr.), Lesly Cruz Sierra (Jr.) and Julyanna Valencia (Jr.),
Approximately 10 players graduated, including Bella Carrera, Alondra Carrillo, Soriah Corona, Lisette Estrella, Janessa Godinez, Victoria Lloyd, Yaresli Lopez, Allie Peterman, Gabriella Ramirez and Akem Sandhu.
“When I picked the team, I didn’t look for just talent,” Dayoff said. “I looked for girls that were good teammates to each other. We have a good mix of versatile players. We have some strong athletes. Their communication is strong on and off the court. We don’t have a lot of height.”
Yaneli Ramos and Julyanna Valencia have been named team captains.
“They both have great work ethics,” Dayoff said. “They’re good team leaders. They’re the loudest two on the court.”
Ceres High amassed a 9-13 overall record and finished in sixth place in the Western Athletic Conference standings with a 5-9 mark last fall.
The Bulldogs’ conference schedule included matches against Beyer, Grace Davis, Johansen, Los Banos, Pacheco, Lathrop and Mountain House.
Ceres High beat Grace Davis and Johansen twice and Mountain House once.
Beyer (14-0), Lathrop (12-2), Pacheco (9-5), Los Banos (7-7) and Mountain House (7-7) placed first, second, third, fourth and fifth, respectively.
Last-place Johansen (1-13) and Grace Davis (1-13) posted identical records.
Beyer, Lathrop and Pacheco qualified for the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs.
Ceres High made its last playoff appearance under Darlene Tobler’s guidance in 2016. The Bulldogs placed second in the WAC (9-6) and returned to the postseason following a five-year absence.
“My goal is to have a solid program within the next couple years,” Heese said. “It’s going to take time and experience out there on the court. It’s a whole new team. We’re going to take our hits and grow from it. There is a good, solid core. We have the pieces to compete. We want to grow as a team.
The Hawks posted an 0-21 overall record and finished in last place in the Central California Conference standings (0-12) for the third time in four years this past season.
Central Valley dropped 11 of its 12 league matches by identical scores of 3-0.
The Hawks lost home-and-away matches to Atwater, El Capitan, Golden Valley, Merced, Buhach Colony and Patterson.
Central Valley’s most competitive match was against Patterson. The Tigers rallied for a 3-2 win over the Hawks. Patterson swept Central Valley, 3-0, during the second meeting.
The Hawks won a combined 11 matches from 2018-22. Central Valley finished 11-13 and third in the WAC (7-8) during Regina Selfridge’s first year as head coach in 2017.
Central Valley secured its last playoff berth under Heese’s guidance in 2016. The Hawks went 8-11 and placed third in the WAC (7-8).
“Everybody wants to win,” Dayoff said. “But winning isn’t everything. We’re hoping to develop great humans and lady Hawks. We’re going to be one happy family. I hope they have a positive experience.”
The Hawks will compete in the CCC for one more season before joining the Bulldogs in the WAC as part of the section’s conference realignment plan.
“The CCC is a difficult league,” Dayoff said. “The girls know that. I know that. Moving into a new league next year, we should be more competitive.”
Dayoff was tapped to lead Central Valley’s girls volleyball program after being hired as an agriculture teacher at the high school.
She replaced Selfridge, who led the Hawks for six seasons (2017-22).
Dayoff previously coached junior-varsity girls volleyball at Patterson High School. She guided the Tigers to the WAC championship during the 2017-18 academic year.
She played volleyball and softball in high school.
“Optimism is my best friend,” Dayoff said while describing her coaching style. “I don’t tend to yell a lot. We just correct it (mistakes) during a timeout or at practice. I try to encourage them and give them positive reinforcement.”
Heese previously coached crosstown-rival Central Valley’s girls volleyball team for four years (2012-16). The Hawks reached unprecedented heights. Central Valley amassed a 30-23 record in WAC play and qualified for the playoffs three times.
“I have such a passion for the sport,” said Heese, who’s been coaching volleyball in the Stanislaus District for 20-plus years.