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CHS girls plan to improve on last years showing
Senior Rayohna Sagapolu will fill a key role during her first season with Ceres Highs varsity girls basketball team. - photo by DALE BUTLER/The Courier

Multi-sport athlete Rayohna Sagapolu will make her debut with Ceres High's varsity girls basketball program this winter.

Sagapolu and the Bulldogs' softball team won Sac-Joaquin Section Division-III and Western Athletic Conference titles in 2016.

Rayohna filled a key role as Ceres High's volleyball squad returned to the postseason this past fall following a five-year absence.

"My goal is to help get every team to playoffs," said Sagapolu, who earned a softball scholarship to San Jose State. "I'm sure we can do it with this team. We're all hard workers. Every single player is competitive."

Sagapolu will team up with returners Leena Bassi (Sr.), Natalia Cortez (Sr.), Kaylee Holloway (Sr.) and Ayannah O'Neal (Jr.), and fellow newcomers Harmen Bahia (Jr.), Andrea Duran (Jr.), Hannah Kimbro (Jr.), Angelina Ursua (Jr.), Shelby Veuve (Jr.), Savannah Zielke (Jr.) and Camryn Silva (So.).

Sagapolu, Cortez, Duran and Veuve have enjoyed success playing softball together.

Rayohna, Shelby and Ayannah were contributors on Ceres High's much-improved volleyball squad.

"We have some speed and athletic people on the team," Sagapolu said.

Sagapolu suited up for Ceres High's junior-varsity hoops team her sophomore and freshman years. The Bulldogs had a combined record of 40-9 and won one conference championship.

"I missed it (basketball)," Rayohna said. "I love being aggressive against people. You can't do that in softball and volleyball. Being competitive, I want to do my best and have people follow me for the right reasons. It's really important to be a team player."

Mike Turpin was supposed to coach Ceres High during the 2016-17 school year.

Turpin will be out indefinitely while he recovers from brain surgery.

Chad Hammond, Turpin's assistant, will serve as leader of the Bulldogs for the rest of the season.

"We visited him in the hospital the day before he was supposed to be discharged," Sagapolu said. "He had a huge smile on his face. It was cool. It's a big change going from Turpin to Hammond because of their styles of coaching. We created a strong bond with him (Turpin) over the summer. He's a really good coach, too. They both have high standards."

Ceres High experienced a remarkable turnaround in 2015-16 under Kristen McClure's guidance.

The Bulldogs (14-11, 6-6 Western Athletic Conference) doubled their overall win total from the previous season.

Ceres High compiled a 7-12 record and had a 4-8 mark in WAC play during the 2014-15 campaign.

Fourth-place Ceres High finished behind Sac-Joaquin Section playoff qualifiers Livingston (11-1), Central Valley (11-1) and Patterson (7-5) in the conference standings.

Crosstown-rival/WAC co-champion Central Valley edged Ceres High twice (45-43, 44-43).
"Our coach has set high expectations for us and we hope to exceed them," Rayohna said. "We want to win league and go to playoffs."

Sagapolu and the Bulldogs were looking forward to playing for Turpin.

The unexpected coaching change has strengthened team chemistry.

"We've gotten really close, which good," Sagapolu said. "We're hungry. We like that feeling."