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CHS girls water polo driven to be great
Striving for first league title
Ceres Highs varsity girls water polo program has three team captains for the 2017 season. Pictured (left to right) are Camryn Elness, Emily Campidonica and Noelia De Leon. - photo by DALE BUTLER/The Courier

Ceres High's varsity girls water polo team made history last fall.

The Bulldogs compiled a program-best 16-3 overall record, finished second in the Western Athletic Conference standings (7-2) and returned to the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs following a three-year absence.

Ceres High opened the 2016 season with 13 consecutive victories.

The Bulldogs won all four of their matches while taking first at the McNair Tournament.

"Last year was amazing," Bulldogs' head coach Stephen Dias said. "I have a good feeling about this year's team. We can win league if we work hard and communicate. We'll get what we earn."

Ceres High returns a wealth of talent from a year ago, including Camryn Elness (Sr.), Camryn Silva (Jr.), Noelia De Leon (Sr.), Emily Campidonica (Sr.), Savannah Zielke (Sr.), Gisele Garcia (Jr.) and Crystal Piceno (Sr.).

Elness, De Leon and Campidonica are team captains.

The Bulldogs' top newcomers are Ninweh Gorges (Jr.) and Emily Wolff (So.).

Gorges and Wolff competed at the junior-varsity level last season.

"We have a really good mix of players," Dias said. "They're fun to work with. They work hard."

Elness totaled 90 blocks at goalkeeper on her way to earning first-team all-WAC honors as a junior.

"She's the best goalie that I've ever worked with," Dias said.

Silva and De Leon were both selected to the WAC Second Team.

Camryn Silva tallied 24 goals and 23 assists.

"She's fast, strong and driven," Dias said. "I've seen a huge maturity in her over the past couple of years. She's becoming an excellent team player."

De Leon contributed nine goals and 22 assists.

"She's consistent," Dias said.

Campidonica and Zielke were honorable-mention selections.

Emily chipped in with six goals and 12 assists.

The top two teams in the WAC earn invitations to the playoffs.

"The girls are confident but they're aware there are going to be some battles," Dias said. "They're going to have to rely on each other more. That's the key ingredient."

The Bulldogs fell one victory shy of claiming their first conference championship last fall.
Los Banos (8-1) edged out Ceres High for the WAC crown.

The Bulldogs had a 1-2 head-to-head record against the Tigers.

Ceres High's two losses to Los Banos were by a combined three goals.

"They're determined to win this year," Dias said. "We always have one hurdle, which is Los Banos. It's going to be a challenge."

Ceres High amassed a 21-20 record in conference play and qualified for the playoffs twice under Diaz's guidance from 2012-16.

The Bulldogs secured their first-ever postseason berth during Stephen's first season at the helm.

Ceres High collected 27 victories and 48 losses in league from 2006-11.

"Six years ago, when I came in, we weren't winning anything," Dias said. "It's been amazing to see the change. Losing isn't an option. We expect to win."