In today’s Courier, we present Part II of the best of 2021 list.
1. Central Valley High School’s football completed its first undefeated season and captured its second league title. The Hawks had a perfect 5-0 overall record and placed first with a 4-0 mark in the Western Athletic Conference South Division standings.
2. Ceres High’s softball team won its second league title in the past three years. The Bulldogs took first in the WAC South with a perfect 15-0 record. Ceres High finished 16-3 on the season. The Bulldogs outscored their opponents, 206-44.
3. Central Valley’s baseball team claimed its first-ever conference championship and amassed a 14-4 overall record. The Hawks won eight of nine games against WAC South competition.
4. A year removed from not fielding a girls golf team due to a lack of interest, Ceres High won a share of the WAC South crown. The Bulldogs and Pacheco Panthers compiled identical 6-2 records.
5. Ceres High’s boys golf team won all eight of its conference matches. The Bulldogs swept Central Valley (6-2), Los Banos (3-4), Johansen (1-6) and Pacheco (0-8).
6. Central Valley’s girls soccer team (7-1-2) edged out crosstown-rival Ceres High (7-1-1) by just one point for the WAC South championship. The Hawks beat and tied the Bulldogs once in conference play.
7. Ceres High’s boys soccer team amassed an 8-2-1 overall record and claimed the WAC South title with an 8-1-1 mark.
8. Ceres High’s girls water polo team finished atop the WAC South standings with a 7-1 record. The Bulldogs claimed the conference title outright with a 14-9 victory at Los Banos. The Bulldogs had a one-game lead over the 6-2 Tigers in league play.
9. Ceres High’s boys water polo team won six of seven matches on its way to capturing the WAC South championship. The Bulldogs finished ahead of Los Banos (4-3-1), Johansen (4-4) and Pacheco (0-6-1).
10. Ceres High’s boys track and field team placed first in the WAC South dual standings. The Bulldogs amassed a 4-0 record. Ceres High collected wins against Johansen (90-11), Central Valley (78-37), Pacheco (74-59) and Los Banos (81-39).
11. Ceres High School’s football team advanced to the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs for the first time since 2004, ending a 16-year drought. The Bulldogs amassed a 5-6 overall record and finished in fifth place in the Western Athletic Conference standings with a 3-4 mark.
Other notable stories
1. Former Ceres High School multi-sport athlete Austin Stiles lost his life in a car accident on Dec. 1 in Acampo. He was just 24 years old. Stiles graduated from CHS in 2016. He starred in football, basketball and track and field. Stiles earned all-Western Athletic Conference honors in all three sports during his senior year. A standout receiver, Stiles’ football career ended prematurely at College of San Mateo in 2017 due to a spinal condition.
2. Cade Cowell made his debut with the United States Men’s National Soccer Team on Dec. 18. The 18-year-old Ceres native’s outstanding play during his third season with the San Jose Earthquakes earned him a call-up to the USMNT December 5-19 camp. He collected five goals and six assists, both career highs. Cowell also recorded career highs in appearances (33), starts (14), minutes (1,664) and shots (42) with the Earthquakes in 2021, earning the club’s Young Player of the Year award and a selection to the 2021 MLS All-Star Team.
3. Nicole “Sis” Bates wrapped up her illustrious softball career with the University of Washington at the NCAA Division-I National Championship Tournament in May. The 2016 Ceres High School grad established herself as one of college’s elite players during her time with the Huskies. A standout hitter and shortstop, Bates ranks first in program history in hits (320) and triples (18), second in fielding percentage (.980), third in runs (227), fourth in batting average (.385), and fifth in doubles (54). Bates became just the second player in Pac-12 history to win the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year award three times. She also made history in 2021 year by becoming just the fifth hitter from Washington to earn NFCA All-American honors for a third time. She was selected to the NFCA Second Team. Bates was a Top-10 finalist for 2021 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year. Bates joined the professional ranks during the summer after getting selected in the 2021 Athletes Unlimited Softball Draft on May 10.
4. Blane Abeyta moved to Florida in March to begin his professional baseball career with the New York Yankees organization. The 2017 Ceres High School grad accomplished a first on Sept. 6 when he was named Southeast League Pitcher of the Week. A key contributor with the Low-A Tampa Tarpons, Abeyta was rewarded for turning in a dominant performance on Sept. 3. The righthander tallied a career-high nine strikeouts during Tampa’s 4-0 win over Bradenton at LECOM Park. Abeyta allowed no runs and just one hit in six innings.