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CHS water polo has good reason to be confident
Sophomore Julia Pata will be asked to do more on offense for Ceres High Schools varsity girls water polo team this season. She scored 11 goals her freshman year. Pata earned first-team, all-conference honors. - photo by DALE BUTLER/Courier file photo

Julia Pata, Kyndal Chapman and Annie Connors have been named team captains for Ceres High School's varsity girls water polo program.

"Between the three of them, I got a really good balance of what I need to make a team run," head coach Stephen Dias said. "Julia is fast and strong. Kyndal's a vocal leader and encourager. Annie's a good all-round player. They're very dedicated."

Pata (So.), Chapman (Sr.) and Connors (Jr.) helped lead Ceres High to a third-place finish in the Western Athletic Conference standings (4-4) a season ago.

Julia was named to the WAC First Team.

She led Ceres High in assists and steals.

She also scored 11 goals.

Pata will shoulder the scoring load this season. First-team all-league pick Emily Chapman (32 goals) was lost to graduation.

"I do expect a lot from Julia," Dias said. "She's still learning the game. She's aggressive in the pool. She's been great with some of the new kids. I'm pushing her harder this year."

Returner Anna Rogers (Sr.) and newcomer Cynthia Sanchez (Sr.) will also contribute.

The top two teams in the WAC qualify for the playoffs.
Los Banos (8-0) and Central Catholic (5-3) took first and second, respectively, in 2013.

Central Catholic moved to the Valley Oak League as part of conference realignment.

Pacheco (4-4), Livingston (0-8) and varsity newcomer El Capitan of Merced are also members of the WAC.

"Our goal is to be in the playoffs," said Dias, whose team last participated in the postseason in 2012. "I think it's possible. But we're going to have to work for it. It's not going to be handed to us. I'm feeling really good about this year."

Coach Dias had 24 players attend practice at 5:30 in the morning on Monday.

"Basically, one girl didn't show," he said. "That's pretty good attendance. They're hungry."

Ceres High School's varsity boys water polo team returns five starters from a season ago, including Zachary Jones, Sean Carr, Tim Campbell, Erik Weststeyn and Bobby Baranski.

"We got speed," head coach Tracy Bull said. "We're going to have to play a fast game because of that. That's our advantage. We're going to be entertaining to watch. We're going to score a lot of goals."

Jones (Sr.) collected 54 goals, 37 assists and 31 steals for the Western Athletic Conference runner-up Bulldogs (6-2) in 2013.

A first-team WAC honoree, Jones was voted league MVP as a sophomore.

"Zach is so humble you forget how good he is," Bull said. "He's much more vocal this year. "I didn't see any of that last season. He's arguably the best player in the league. He'll be our primary shooter. We're expecting great things from him."

Jones will share team-captain duties with Weststeyn, who's also a four-year member.

Carr (Sr.) was selected to the WAC First Team as a junior.

Sean totaled 126 saves and allowed 53 goals in eight games.

"He was by far the best goalie in league last year," Bull said.

Campbell (Jr.) and Baranski (Jr.) are third-year players.

Tim and Bobby will start for the second straight season.

"Tim's a big, strong kid," Bull said. "He's got a cannon for an arm."

Other players expected to contribute this year include returners Fernando Olmos (So.) and Luis Hernandez Camarillo (So.), and newcomer Cole Silva (Jr.).

Silva played JV football in 2013.

"I made a big push to get Cole," Bull said. "That's a huge addition for us. He's going to be our third-leading scorer."

Ceres High will be vying for its fourth playoff trip in five years.

"We're going to have to sweep Livingston and Pacheco, and split with Los Banos and El Capitan," Bull said.

The top two teams in league advance to the postseason.

Ceres High and Los Banos (8-0) represented the WAC last year.

Livingston (3-5) and Central Catholic (3-5) tied for third place.

Pacheco (0-8) finished last.

Varsity newcomer El Capitan (Merced) will replace Central Catholic, which moved to the Valley Oak League as part of conference realignment.

"The dark horse is El Capitan," Bull said. "Merced's always been a hotbed for water polo. I'd be surprised if they weren't good."

Ceres High won seven of eight matches on its way to capturing the WAC crown in 2012.

"The No. 1 goal is to win league," Bull said. "We'll be right there. The second goal is to make playoffs."