Kelly Heese will begin her 20th season of coaching volleyball in the Central Valley this year.
Heese, third-year leader of Ceres High School’s girls program, hasn’t lost her passion for the sport.
“It’s something I love doing,” she said. “It keeps me going. I’m very competitive. Being a former athlete, I’ll never lose that. I’m pretty old school. I still believe that athletes have to work and earn their position on the court. I’m a very fair coach. I don’t play favorites. I want the best for everyone that is out there.”
Heese has high hopes for the 2021 Bulldogs.
Ceres High welcomes back a wealth of experience from a year ago.
Jada Harris (Jr.), Jazmyne Arendt (Jr.), Dominique Arendt (Jr.), Maryn Curry (Sr.), Alayna De La Torre (Sr.), Jamie Olvera (Sr.), Priscilla Sequeira (Sr.), Kitiana Tuakalau (Sr.), Abby Prado (Jr.) and Ally Strehl (Jr.) all returned to the team.
The Bulldogs have one newcomer in Sehren Martinez (Jr.). She competed at the JV level this past season.
Harris and Jazmyne Arendt were both named to the Western Athletic Conference South Division First Team as sophomores.
Harris totaled 45 kills, 24 blocks, three digs and two aces.
Arendt had 53 digs, 41 kills, 11 aces, three blocks and two assists.
Curry and Jazmyne Arendt were named team captains.
“This is probably the most all-around talent I’ve had as far as athleticism,” Heese said. “We have solid hitters. They’re all good passers. We just have to put it all together. I’m looking for progress. If I see that, I’ll be extremely happy.”
Ceres High lost two players to graduation, including Allison Stiles and Bethanie Thornberry.
Stiles, Ceres High’s best all-round player, contributed at the varsity level for three-plus season. She was voted the WAC South’s Most Valuable Setter during her senior year. Stiles accumulated 145 assists, 39 digs, 19 kills, 18 aces and two blocks.
Curry will take over setting duties for the Bulldogs.
“We’re looking to find a team leader,” Heese said. “We need somebody to take charge on the court.”
“My biggest thing for an athlete is to be coachable,” she added. “If I can get them to be receptive to that, it’s going to be a successful season.”
The Bulldogs played just a total of six matches in 2020.
Six contests were canceled due to COVID protocols.
Ceres High posted a 4-2 overall record and finished second in the WAC South standings (2-2).
Pacheco (4-0) won the league title.
Central Valley (1-5, 1-3) tied for last with Los Banos.
The Bulldogs went 1-1 versus the crosstown Hawks.
Ceres High won the first meeting, 3-0.
Central Valley won the rematch, 3-1.
Ceres High split with Los Banos during the final week of the season.
The Bulldogs avenged a 3-1 loss with a 3-1 win on Senior Night at Phil de la Porte Gymnasium.
Ceres High topped WAC North member Grace Davis twice.
The WAC was split into two divisions for just one year for travel and public health reasons related to the coronavirus pandemic. Playoffs were canceled to allow student-athletes as much time as possible to play some matches during the COVID-shortened season.
The Bulldogs will face Beyer, Grace Davis, Johansen, Los Banos, Pacheco, Lathrop and Mountain House in WAC play this fall.
Ceres High’s preseason lineup includes matches against Hughson, Enochs, Gustine, Sierra, Downey and Central Valley. The Bulldogs will also compete in the Orestimba Tournament.
“I packed my schedule,” Heese said. “I wanted to make sure the girls got a full season this year.”
The Bulldogs will vie for a top-three finish in the league standings.
“We don’t practice to lose,” Heese said. “I think we have the potential to be a contender. We got a lot of talent. If everybody does their job, we’ll be unstoppable. We just got to be aggressive.”