New leader David Ortiz is looking forward to the challenge of rebuilding Ceres High’s varsity boys tennis program.
Ortiz, 61, previously coached at Escalon (2014-15), Downey (2012-14) and Hollis-Brookline (2010-11).
“I’m starting from scratch,” he said. “I have only one guy coming back from last year. I’m trying to teach them the basics and fundamentals of tennis. I want to make sure they understand the importance of sportsmanship.”
Ceres High has a total of 14 players on its 2019 roster.
Manuel Pimentel (Jr.) is the Bulldogs’ lone returner.
Hassan Imran (Jr.), Sameed Kahloon (Jr.), Taymour Aadil (Sr.), Hamza Ikram (Sr.), Ian Saldana (Fr.), Francisco Ruiz (So.), Andy Tan (Fr.), Noah Zamora (Fr.), Eduardo Ramirez (Fr.), Daniel Gonzalez (Fr.), Ricky Gonzales (So.), Blake Barr (Fr.) and Taylor Smith (Jr.) are new to the team.
“We do have challenge matches so our lineup can change,” he said. “I don’t play any favoritism. I’m old school. You have to earn your spot.”
The Bulldogs will compete in the revamped Western Athletic Conference this spring.
The league features eight teams: Ceres High, Los Banos, Pacheco, Beyer, Grace Davis, Johansen, Lathrop and Mountain House.
Beyer, Grace Davis, Johansen, Lathrop and Mountain House moved to the WAC as part of the Sac-Joaquin Section’s conference realignment plan.
Beyer, Grace Davis and Johansen left the Modesto Metro Conference.
Lathrop and Mountain House were previous members of the Valley Oak League and Trans Valley League.
Ceres High lost all 10 of its conference matches last year. The Bulldogs also had their streak of consecutive Sac-Joaquin Section appearances snapped at eight seasons.
“I got a really good group of guys,” Ortiz said. “They’re willing to learn and are catching on quick. I’d be happy if we win half of our matches. That would be an accomplishment because we only have one returner from a year ago.”
Ortiz was a three-year varsity player at Dos Palos High School. The 1976 grad earned a spot on the Fresno City College men’s team during his freshman year. He was sidelined for the entire season with a knee injury.
“I’ve been playing since I was 14,” he said. “My older sister got me and my younger brother tennis rackets for Christmas. I learned how to play hitting against the wall and watching the better players play.”
Ortiz has been offering tennis lessons since 2010.
He’s a certified recreational coach through the United States Professional Tennis Association.
“If it has to do with tennis, there’s nothing I’ve never done,” he said. “I just got into officiating. I try to promote the sport as much as I can.”