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The Best of 2011
Peak Performers

1. Ceres High's Gabriel Balderas exceeded his own expectations by qualifying for the CIF State Wrestling Championships as a 112-pound sophomore. He won two of four matches en route to a top-16 finish. Balderas had an overall record of 41-14. He posted several upsets on his way to a sixth-place finish at the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Meet. He edged Buhach Colony's Johnny Salazar 2-1 in the quarterfinals. He lost twice by decision to Salazar earlier in the year. Balderas placed third at Divisionals. He also won the WAC title. Just three Bulldog grapplers have advanced to State since 2002.

2. Daniel Ochoa, a senior striker on Central Valley High School's varsity boys soccer team, collected a program-record 38 goals and dished out five assists. Ochoa was voted WAC Most Valuable Player. He was also recognized for his play in football. Daniel won the conference's Special Teams MVP award. He booted a 47-yard field goal against Livingston. Ochoa had a host of kickoffs result in touchbacks.

3. Anthony Bonales won the WAC individual title and MVP award while starring on Central Valley's varsity boys golf team as a freshman. Bonales almost qualified for the Northern California Championships. He tied for fourth place at the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Tournament and saw his season come to an end after losing in a five-man playoff. Anthony finished third at Divisionals.

4. Central Valley varsity football star Ja'Quan Gardner set team records for yards and touchdowns in a single season and game. The sophomore running back totaled 1,985 yards and 25 touchdowns. Ja'Quan scored seven times against crosstown-rival Ceres High and rumbled for 397 yards versus newcomer Pacheco. Gardner was named WAC Offensive MVP. He won the Stanislaus District's rushing title.

5. Tyree Jones placed first in the 100 and 200 at the WAC Track and Field Championships his senior year at Central Valley. He also anchored the Hawks' winning 4x100 relay team, which finished second during the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV-V competition and 15th at Masters.

6. Adriana Mendez won a pair of titles while competing at the WAC Girls Track & Field Championships her senior year. The Central Valley distance runner upset Livingston's Kelsey Gallegos while sweeping the 3,200 and 1,600 meters.

7. John Dhillon was a role player on Ceres High's varsity boys basketball team as a junior. He had a memorable final season with the Bulldogs in 2011. The standout point guard was voted WAC MVP. Dhillon averaged 15.5 points, 4.7 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 2.8 steals per game.

8. Ceres High varsity girls tennis player Marifer Ochoa qualified for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II Individual Singles Tournament for the second straight year by virtue of her runner-up finish at the WAC Championships. Ochoa, a sophomore, posted a 14-2 record in league play. She shared the conference's MVP award with Los Banos' Alexis Barcellos.

9. Brent Ward had a productive final season with Ceres High's varsity baseball team. The left-handed slugger was selected WAC Most Valuable Offensive Player. Ward, an outfielder on defense, had the third-highest batting average in conference play. He hit .476 (20-for-42) with one homer, one triple, four doubles, 12 RBIs, 11 runs and six stolen bases.

10. Ceres High varsity girls basketball star Bryce Ford won the WAC MVP Award as a sophomore. She averaged 18.0 points, 9.7 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game. Ford also shot 44 percent from the floor.

11. Ceres High senior girls golfer Arleen Xayasone had a career year. She fired a 93 while capturing a sixth-place medal at the 2011 Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV tournament. Xayasone earned first-team, all-league accolades. She finished second behind MVP Joanna Nguyen of Central Catholic in the WAC individual standings. Arleen defeated Joanna at the conference's mid-year and end-of-season tournaments. She also won by tiebreaker over Nguyen at Divisionals.

Best Team Effort

1. Central Valley's varsity boys soccer program fell two wins shy of capturing the school's first-ever section title in a team sport. The Hawks compiled an impressive 19-2-1 record, won their fourth consecutive conference title (10-1-1) and qualified for the postseason for the fifth year in a row. Central Valley, which ranked 10th in California and 54th in the United States by, lost 5-2 to underdog East Union in the semifinals of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-IV playoffs. Daniel Ochoa, Hugo Contreras, Daniel Hernandez, Omar Orozco, Samuel Martinez and Anthony Calvo received WAC honors for their outstanding play.

2. Central Valley's varsity girls basketball team made history this past season. The Hawks accomplished several firsts, including winning a league title, qualifying for the playoffs and beating crosstown-rival Ceres High. Central Valley and Los Banos shared the WAC crown with identical 8-2 marks. Alyssa Long, Myra Naranjo, Eva Noorzai and Brittany Martinez helped lead the Hawks to a 15-8 overall record.

3. Ceres High's varsity boys basketball program ended years of frustration. The Bulldogs (17-9, 8-2) secured their first league title in 17 years and playoff berth since 2006-07 under WAC coach of the year Brian de la Porte's guidance. Seniors John Dhillon, Edgar Lopez and Chris Hilgen, and junior Binder Atwal played key roles.

4. Ceres High's varsity girls golf team reached record heights in 2010. The Bulldogs secured their first-ever Sac-Joaquin Section playoff berth and placed third in the WAC (7-5). Ceres High had an even-better 2011 campaign. Arleen Xayasone, Caitlin Pfaff, Jessica Ellsworth, Kinsey Ward, Erica Hogner, Jasmine Perez and Martina Smith propelled Ceres High to a runner-up finish in league (10-2) and second straight postseason appearance. Xayasone was the lone returner on this year's team. The Bulldogs struggled to a 1-13 record in 2009.

5. Central Valley's varsity wrestling squad qualified for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-IV Team Dual competition, placed second in the WAC and sent 11 grapplers to Divisionals. The Hawks finished fifth at Divisionals and first at Modesto High's Big Kat Classic. Central Valley was led by Josh Beckhart, Jaime Lomeli, Michael Manzur, Vince Martinez, Johnny Proctor, James Jackson, Jeffrey Phetsomphou, Anthony Centeno, Jaime Tadeo, Evan Elliot and Miguel Espinoza.

6. Ceres High's varsity baseball team advanced to the playoffs for the first time since 2002. With Brent Ward, Dustin Baisdon, Tyler Cummings, Jimbo Pernetti and Nick Welsh leading the way, the Bulldogs finished in third place in the WAC standings (9-6) and compiled a 17-10 overall record. Ceres High lost 6-2 to Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV repeat champion Oakdale in the opening round of the playoffs.

7. Ceres High School's varsity girls tennis team participated in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-II playoffs for the fifth year in a row. The Bulldogs managed to extend their streak of consecutive postseason appearances, compile a 12-5 record and place third in the WAC (8-4) despite competing with a revamped lineup. Ceres High's starting lineup consisted of four veterans and eight newcomers by season's end. Marifer Ochoa, Kaylee Donovan, Christin Ornells, Karin Kainth, Navneet Grewal, Viridiana Arroyo, Kim Ochoa, Lizzy Magana, Manpreet Bahia, Alexis Cummings, Manmeet Dhami and Navneet Kaur all contributed.

8. Ceres High's varsity girls cross country team placed first overall at the WAC Championships. Cecilia Carretero, Bryce Ford and Dia Borden were presented all-league patches for finishing among the top 8 runners on the newly-configured 3.1-mile course at Ceres River Bluff Regional Park. Lisette Carretero and Viviana Ramirez also scored points for the Bulldogs. Ceres High topped Livingston, Patterson, Pacheco, Los Banos, Central Catholic and Central Valley in the team standings.

9. Ceres High's varsity boys soccer team posted a 13-6-1 record, finished second in the WAC (9-3-0) and qualified for the playoffs for the fourth year in a row despite being hit hard by graduation and ineligibility. The Bulldogs lost three starters to grades. Ceres High edged 2011 section-runner-up East Union 3-2 during the regular season. The Bulldogs escaped with a 2-1 win over semi-finalist Central Valley in conference play. Rafael Mercado, Roberto Hernandez, Huberto Luna and Jose Saldivar earned all-league accolades.

10. Ceres High's varsity boys tennis team placed second in the WAC standings (9-3) and advanced to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-II playoffs for the second straight season. Bulldog starters included Gurman Bains, Alick Liang, Bobby Bahia, Matt Mey, Victor Cruz, Justin Virk, Nick Serratos, Esteban de la Torre, Trevor Brazil, Victor Pimentel, Heath Adrian and Eric Bejaran.

11. Central Valley's varsity girls golf team eclipsed last year's win total of four while tying for fourth place with Patterson in the WAC standings (5-7). The Hawks sent a program-best three players to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-IV Tournament, including Lizette Ayala, Martina Bernall and Jocelyn Camarillo.

Most Memorable Games

1. Ceres High School's varsity boys soccer team spoiled Central Valley's bid for a second-consecutive unbeaten regular season.The host Bulldogs posted a surprising 2-1 victory over the 2011 Western Athletic Conference champion Hawks. The Bulldogs finished second in league and qualified for the playoffs for the fourth year in a row. Ceres High snapped Central Valley's 22-game, conference unbeaten streak. The Hawks had no losses during their previous 36 regular-season games.

2. Central Valley High School's varsity girls basketball team earned its first league title and playoff appearance on the final day of the WAC season. The Hawks avoided a major letdown by beating crosstown-rival Ceres High 48-28 at Phil de la Porte Gymnasium. Central Valley posted a 7-20 overall record and finished in seventh place in the Valley Oak League standings (4-12) in 2009-10.

3. Central Valley's varsity baseball team did the unexpected by taking two of three games from crosstown-rival Ceres High. Led by Chris Moscozo, Jeremy Lasaster, Ruben Casas, Andy Lomeli, Shaun Chisholm and David Dart, the Hawks defeated the heavily-favored Bulldogs 8-5 and 3-0 in Western Athletic Conference play. Ceres High, which qualified for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV playoffs, exacted revenged with an 8-1 win on the final day of the regular season.

4. Central Valley's and Ceres High's varsity volleyball teams battled for crosstown bragging rights. Hawk players and coaches celebrated on the Bulldogs' home court after winning the Western Athletic Conference finale in thrilling fashion, 23-25, 25-22, 25-12, 24-26, 15-12. The match lasted two-plus hours. There were 28 ties. Breanna Wideman tallied 25 assists, three digs, two blocks, one kill and one ace for fourth-place Central Valley (4-8). Brittany Martinez added 12 kills and four blocks. Kassondra Jordan fifth-place Ceres High (2-10) with 11 kills. The Hawks swept the season series. Central Valley won the first meeting, 26-24, 15-25, 25-23, 25-20.

5. Central Valley's varsity football beat Ceres High again. The Hawks won the WAC crosstown showdown 55-21 and improved their all-time record against the Bulldogs to 5-1. Central Valley sophomore Ja'Quan Gardner rumbled for 307 yards and a school-record seven touchdowns. The two sides traded scores before the Hawks imposed their will. Central Valley and Ceres High posted overall records of 4-6 and 3-7, respectively. The Hawks, Bulldogs and Livingston Wolves tied for fourth place in conference play with identical 2-4 marks.

Other Notable Stories

1. Shawna Nunes completed her 18th and final season of coaching with Ceres High's varsity girls basketball team. The Bulldogs amassed a 365-142 record, captured one section championship, claimed six league titles and secured 15 playoff berths. Former Ceres High hoops star Vanessa Morris was named Nunes' successor. Shawna will fill the position of athletic director at her alma mater.

2. Ceres High's varsity boys soccer team had a successful yet trying season during head coach Koeurn Phe's final year at the helm. Phe stepped down to spend more time with his wife and three children. The Bulldogs compiled a 53-22-10 record (37-9-6 in league), won one section title and qualified for the playoffs four years in a row under Phe's guidance from 2008-11. The Bulldogs made history in 2009 when they claimed the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-IV crown. Ceres High upset crosstown-rival Central Valley 2-0 in the finals and finished the year with a 17-3-3 record.

3. Ceres High grad Alejandro Garcia and Central Valley alumnus Jasveen Brar both enjoyed memorable freshman seasons with Modesto Junior College's track and field program. Garcia and Brar represented the Pirates at the 2011 California Community College Athletic Association State Championships. Alejandro and Jasveen qualified by virtue of their standout performances at the Northern California Community College Track and Field Finals. Garcia finished first in the 10,000 meters and 5,000 meters. It was Alejandro's first time competing in the 10,000. Brar took fourth in the 400 hurdles. She completed the race in a personal-best 65.11 seconds, the fifth-fastest time in school history. Jasveen was also an alternate for the Pirates' state-qualifying 4x100 relay team.

4. The Ceres Earthquakes under-9 competitive boys soccer team won all nine of its games en route to a first-place finish at the 2011 NorCal State Cup. Ceres shut out Santa Clara Sporting Green 5-0 in the finals at Manteca's Woodward Park. The Earthquakes kept their No. 1 ranking in Northern California. Ceres took first at nine tournaments this season. The Earthquakes competed in an older age group during league play in an effort to prepare for State Cup.

5. Former Ceres High standout quarterback Josh Edwards didn't perform like a backup when inserted into University of Mary's starting lineup. The 6-foot, 190-pound redshirt freshman completed 55 of 89 passes for 641 yards with eight touchdowns and no interceptions while filling in for injured teammate Craig Bagnell. Edwards improved every game. He turned in his best performance during the Marauders' 41-28 loss to visiting University of Minnesota-Deluth. He totaled 318 yards and four touchdowns while connecting on 28 of 40 pass attempts. Josh was third on University of Mary's depth chart last season.

6. Vince Lopez, Trevor Mew, Tyree Jones, Alex Casas, Nick Mead, Greg Mathews, Rick Rogers and Jesse Hatfield, former Central Valley football players, all contributed at the collegiate level. Lopez split time at running back while leading De Anza to a 7-3 overall record and second-place finish in the Golden Gate Conference (3-2). Vince ran for 355 yards and three touchdowns. Mew and Jones teamed up at Merced College. Trevor passed for 2,350 yards and 20 TDs and second-team, all-league running back Jones rushed for 377 yards and five scores as the Blue Devils went 4-6 and placed third in the GGC (2-3). Casas, Mead, Mathews, Rogers and Hatfield played for Modesto Junior College (8-3, 3-2 Valley Conference).

7. The Ceres Seahawks junior-varsity and pee-wee youth football teams both fell one win short of the Cen-Cal Super Bowl. The pee-wee squad compiled a 13-1 record and won the AFC regular-season title. The junior-varsity team had an 11-3 mark and earned the top seed for the playoffs. The Seahawks also swept the Ceres Cowboys.