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CHS, CV boys volleyball teams look to improve
Ceres High welcomes back several key players from last years fourth-place team, including 6-foot-6 junior Cristian Garcia. - photo by DALE BUTLER/The Courier

Ceres High and Central Valley both fielded varsity boys volleyball teams for the first time in school history last spring.

The Bulldogs (8-6) and Hawks (2-12) placed fourth and seventh, respectively, in the Western Athletic Conference standings.

Second-year head coaches Darlene Tobler and Kelly Heese welcome the challenge of trying to build winning programs at Ceres High and Central Valley, respectively.

"We're a work in progress," Tobler said. "But I still have very high hopes for my team. We have everything we need to succeed as long as we continue to work hard. I know we'll continue to get better."

"Volleyball is a mental game," Heese said. "You have to stay focused. You have to keep the momentum going and play with consistency. It's not an individual sport. It takes everybody to win and lose."

Ceres High's roster features several returning players and a host of newcomers.

Junior Cristian Garcia, and seniors Chris Lubinsky and Jordan McGrath returned to the team.

Christian Murry (So.), Gustavo Fernandez (So.) and Freddi Lopez (So.) gained valuable experience competing for the Bulldogs' third-place junior-varsity boys volleyball team (4-6) last season.

Nick Jones (Sr.), Vinay Soni (Sr.), Prabh Singh (Jr.) and Eduardo Torres-Cruz (So.) are first-year players.

"We have players that have played before but not together," Tobler said. "It's like starting from scratch. I'm very excited with the talent that is there. They're working hard. They have great attitudes. They're very competitive."

Garcia, Lubinsky and Murry are team captains.

Cristian earned first-team all-conference honors as a sophomore.

Garcia led the Bulldogs in in kills (131) and blocks (51).

He also collected 34 digs and 15 assists.

"I have a lot of confidence in Cristian," Tobler said. "He brings drive to the team. When he's on, he' is unstoppable. His hits cannot be returned."

Central Valley returns just two players from a year ago in seniors Adrian Calvo and Brandon Ulloa.

Newcomers Angel Arellano (Jr.), Hector Herrera (Jr.), Jesus Real (Jr.), Omar Espinoza (So.) and Jair Pineda (So.) were members of Central Valley's fourth-place JV squad (2-8) in 2016.

Cory Cantaloube (Sr.), Christian Palomares (Fr.) and Anthony Rojo (Fr.) are first-year players.

"We have a lot of talent and athletes," Heese said. "They're very coachable and work hard. We're pretty strong across the board. We're not just a one-man team. We have solidarity."

The top three teams in the Western Athletic Conference qualify for the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs.

Ceres High beat Central Valley, Livingston, and Los Banos twice, and Pacheco and El Capitan once in WAC play in 2016.

Central Valley's two victories came against Livingston and Los Banos.

"It was a learning year," Tobler said. "The ultimate goal is to continue to grow and improve. I'm not going to put a number out there. We're still trying to bond. We need to learn how to work together and communicate better. We're building trust and the foundation for our team."

"We have a lot of strengths," Heese said. "We have a lot of weaknesses. It's a learning process. We just have to play our A game every time we go out there."