Ceres High's varsity softball program proved a lot of people wrong this past spring by maintaining its tradition of excellence.
Surprisingly, first-year leader Ashley Nicolich did not win Western Athletic Conference Coach of the Year despite directing a new-look program hit hard by graduation to continued success.
Nicolich has been named the Courier's Coach of the Year.
The Bulldogs successfully defended their WAC title (9-1) despite returning just four players from 2016.
Five key players were lost to graduation, including Nicole Bates, Mahlena O'Neal, Mackenzie Veuve, Sabrina Baisdon and Jessica Arreola.
Bates and O'Neal earned scholarships to Washington and Georgia, respectively.
"A lot of people didn't think we were going to win conference," said Nicolich, whose team closed out WAC play with eight straight victories. "After seeing them play, I didn't feel any pressure at all. I had expectations for them. I'm excited to build the program. We can only get better."
Nicolich relied heavily on returnees Rayohna Sagapolu, Callie Nunes, Andrea Duran and Shelby Veuve.
Sagapolu was voted WAC MVP.
Rayohna batted .500 with five homers, nine doubles, 29 RBIs and 22 runs.
Nunes was named WAC Pitcher of the Year for the second consecutive season.
Callie compiled a 20-3 record with a 0.52 earned-run average, one no-hitter, 10 complete games and 291 strikeouts.
Duran was selected to the WAC First Team.
She batted .274 with one homer, four doubles, 13 RBIs and 17 runs.
Veuve batted .340 with two doubles, two RBIs, 27 runs and five stolen bases.
Newcomers Vianney Perez, Branda Villalpando, Rebecca DeLeon, Priscilla Chavez, Justice Dizney and Bailey Showen also contributed.
Perez earned first-team all-conference accolades.
She batted .375 with seven homers, three triples, six doubles, 34 RBIs and 28 runs.
Villalpando was a second-team honoree.
She had one double, five RBIs and four runs.
DeLeon had two doubles, 10 RBIs and eight runs.
Chavez had four RBIs and 12 runs.
Dizney had three doubles, six RBIs and three runs.
Showen had one triple, three RBIs and three runs.
Ceres High had a 20-9 overall record and finished in the top eight in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-III playoffs.
The Bulldogs made their sixth straight postseason appearance.
Ceres High outscored its WAC opponents, 85-15.