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CHS girls water polo players all-league selections
Four members of Ceres Highs varsity girls water polo team earned all-Western Athletic Conference honors, including Camryn Elness (pictured left) and Julia Pata. Elness and Pata led the Bulldogs to a runner-up finish in the WAC standings. - photo by DALE BUTLER/The Courier

A standout on Ceres High's varsity girls water polo team since her freshman year, Julia Pata propelled the Bulldogs to record heights this season.

"I'm not the face of the program," Pata said. "I don't think I could have accomplished half the stuff I did without my teammates."

Pata and Ceres High's Kaitlyn Foster, Camryn Elness, Camryn Silva and Noelia de Leon were recognized in a vote by the Western Athletic Conference's head coaches earlier this month in Los Banos.

"We played so well together," Julia said.

Pata, Foster and Elness were all selected to the WAC First Team.

Julia was nominated for Most Valuable Player.

"Awards are great things," Pata said. "But that's not what you play for."

Pata led the Bulldogs in scoring with 31 goals.

Julia earned first-team all-league honors three times.

She was a second-team pick as a sophomore.

"We worked so well together," said Stephen Dias, Pata's coach for the past four seasons. "She'll be missed. Not every team has a Julia. The other girls looked up to her. She was a great player. She was the backbone of the team. She was very focused and motivated. She loved competition."

Pata ranks as one of Ceres High's all-time greatest players.

"It's hard to think about stuff like that," Pata said. "She (Haley Fisicaro) was my hero when I was younger. To be put in that same category blows my mind. There was a lot of pressure. I think I handled it pretty well. I wouldn't have had success without my teammates."

Foster (Sr.) was the Bulldogs' third-leading scorer.

Kaitlyn had 19 goals.

"She was not afraid to shoot the ball," Dias said. "She played tight defense. She was very dedicated. She was an all-round, great player."

Elness (Jr.) totaled 100 blocks at goalkeeper.

"She did her job incredibly well," Dias said. "She really shined against the harder teams. Her energy level changed. She was very impressive to watch."

Silva (So.) and de Leon (Jr.) both earned second-team, all-league accolades.

Camryn tallied 24 goals.

"She's aggressive," Dias said. "She knows the game. I considered moving her up to varsity last year. She wanted to prove what she could do. She wasn't intimidated."

Noelia, whose primary role on the team was defense, contributed nine goals.

"She just loved being in the water, playing and having fun," Dias said. "Her job was to stop the ball when it came to the hole set. She was our last defense before the goalie."

Emily Campidonica and Savannah Zielke were honorable-mention selections.

Emily chipped in with six goals.

Ceres High compiled a program-best 16-3 overall record, finished second in the WAC standings (7-2) and returned to the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs following a three-year absence.

The Los Banos Tigers edged out the Bulldogs 8-7 for the conference title.

Ceres High placed first at the McNair Tournament.

The Bulldogs opened the season with 13 consecutive victories.

"It was an amazing experience," Pata said. "It was magic in the water. I'd really love to play water polo in college. It's my favorite sport."

"Every year, you lose great kids," Dias said. "It may take two to three players to fill Julia's shoes. It's going to be different next year. She was like a second coach. I could look at her and know what she was thinking."