Ceres High’s boys and girls water polo programs will compete in the reassembled Western Athletic Conference this fall.
The WAC was split into North and South Divisions for just one season this past school year for safety concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic.
Playoffs were also canceled.
“I’m just glad they get to play (a full season) this year,” coach Stephen Dias said. “COVID messed up everything last year.”
Ceres High’s girls team returns seven players from a season ago, including Karen Bernal (Sr.), Elise Cannella (Sr.), Andrea Contreras (Sr.), Berlin Kahl (Sr.), Emily Parker (Sr.), Reagan Hensley (So.) and Amber Hopwood (So.).
Haley Davis (Jr.) and Lillian Blevins (So.) are newcomers.
Blevins transferred from Beyer.
Ceres High lost six players to graduation: Allison McAdams, Katie Hensley, Angelique Huerta-Alvarado, Makayla Estermann, Ally Feld and Jasmine Suarez.
Bernal and Contreras have been named team captains for the 2021 campaign.
“I’ve been blessed the last several years to have girls that get along,” Dias said. “That’s valuable to me.”
The Bulldogs (7-1) claimed the WAC South title this past season.
Ceres High finished one game ahead of Los Banos (6-2) in conference play.
The Bulldogs’ 2021 league schedule features matches against Los Banos, Pacheco, Beyer, Grace Davis, Johansen, Lathrop and Mountain House.
“We’re going to shoot for playoffs. That’s a realistic goal.”Coach Stephen Dias
“We’re going to shoot for playoffs,” Dias said. “That’s a realistic goal.”
Ceres High’s boys program returns just four players from a year ago in Jeremy Kier (Sr.), Jaden Joy (Sr.), Nick Campbell (Jr.) and Cayden Jantz (Jr.).
Newcomers Blake Barr (Sr.), Mackay Cannella (Sr.), Jesus Valdovinos (So.), McCoy Adams (Fr.), Calen Adams (Fr.) and Mateo Gonzzalez (Fr.) round out the Bulldogs’ roster.
Brian Ayala, Cruz Fee, Ryan Baranski, Kenny Arroyo, Nathan Peython and Jason Cyphers were lost to graduation.
Kier and Campbell have been named team captains.
Campbell led the team in scoring as a sophomore.
“When over half your team is brand-new, it makes it tough,” Dias said. “We’re starting over. These kids have heart. They care about the team. They’re focused. They’re giving it their all. They’re learning quickly. But they haven’t had time in the pool together.”
The Bulldogs (6-1) placed first in the WAC South last season.
Ceres High finished ahead of Los Banos (4-3-1), Johansen (4-4) and Pacheco (0-6-1).
“My expectation for them this year is to learn, grow as a team and win as many games as we can,” Dias said. “That would be awesome. The big thing is to build for next year.”
The top three boys and girls teams in the WAC standings qualify for playoffs.
“They want to win,” Dias said. “I don’t coach them not to win.”