Ceres High School’s girls soccer program fell short of its goal during the 2020-21 COVID-shortened season.
The Bulldogs had to settle for runner-up honors behind the crosstown-rival Central Valley Hawks while competing in the Western Athletic Conference South Division.
Ceres High will compete in the reassembled WAC this winter under second-year coach Hannah Menk’s guidance.
“I think we can win the league title this year,” she said. “We have so much talent. We’ve been working on ball control and technique at practice. Our fitness level is up. Last year, I had to focus on getting people in shape.”
The Bulldogs lost five players to graduation, including Jackie Ruiz, Aaliyah Ruiz, Jennifer Duran, Layla Sandoval and Vanessa Zamora.
The Ruiz sisters both earned first-team all-conference accolades during their final season with the Bulldogs.
Jackie Ruiz, Ceres High’s all-time leading scorer, collected nine goals and three assists at striker.
Ruiz would have scored more goals if she didn’t spend half the season at goalkeeper.
Twin Aaliyah Ruiz tallied eight goals and a team-high six assists while logging playing time at center back, defensive center midfielder, attacking midfielder and striker.
Standout defender Daisy Duran opted not to play this year as she’s serving as the Ceres High boys soccer program’s stat keeper. She was a first-team all-league pick as a junior.
The 2021-22 Bulldogs return 11 players from a season ago, including Natalie Cabrales (Sr.), Andrea Hernandez (Sr.), Paris Moreno (Sr.), Alyssa Quinones (Sr.), Camille Clemmer (Jr.), Kristina Corbin (Jr.), Natalie Corbin (Jr.), Abigayil Prado (Jr.), Jasmine Ravelo (Jr.), Erica Vieira (Jr.), Arianna Diaz (So.) and Kaylee Rodriguez-Montanez (So.).
Monica Castillon (Sr.), Yaresli Lopez (Sr.), Emily Sandoval (Sr.), Judith Zaragoza (Jr.), Llian Blevins (So.), Stephanie Gatica-Lizola (Fr.) and Mariah Zamora (Fr.) are newcomers.
"“Everybody was so isolated last season because of COVID. This year, we’re able to interact. We can do more team bonding. That will help us on the field.”Coach Hannah Menk
“Everybody was so isolated last season because of COVID,” Menk said. “This year, we’re able to interact. We can do more team bonding. That will help us on the field.”
Prado and Vieira have been named team captains.
“It was voted on by players,” Menk said. “They’re both very vocal. They have positive attitudes. They’re very selfless.”
Blevins, a transfer from Beyer, will contribute at goalkeeper.
“She has a high soccer IQ,” Menk said. “She goes for everything. She’s fearless.”
Ceres High will face Beyer, Grace Davis, Johansen, Lathrop, Mountain House, Los Banos and Pacheco during the WAC season.
The Bulldogs compiled a 7-1-1 record on their way to a second-place finish in the WAC South standings a year ago.
Central Valley (7-1-2) edged Ceres High by just one point for the conference title.
The Hawks returned to the Central California Conference for the 2021-22 season.
“We played one less game (due to COVID protocols),” Menk said. “That gave them more points. We got robbed.”
The Bulldogs will be vying for the WAC crown and a trip to the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs this winter. The CIF canceled postseason tournaments a year ago for coronavirus-safety reasons.
“It’s going to be nice having a full season,” Menk said. “I expect us to do well if we communicate. I would be surprised if we didn’t make playoffs. I see the potential in these girls.”