The Valley Oak League’s selections for its most valuable boys and girls soccer players may be a surprise to some.
Not so for second-year Lathrop girls coach Jose Montes, who all but guaranteed that his freshman phenom would get the nod at the start of the season.
Talented striker Kassandra Ceja scored in 12 of the Spartans’ 14 league matches, finishing with 28 in all. And she did it in a variety of ways and distances. Ceja started VOL play with an impressive seven-goal barrage against Weston Ranch.
Lathrop finished 4-9-1 in league, but Montes said his team should continue to rise in the standings with Ceja leading the way in the years to come.
“I knew from the beginning she’d be the MVP of the league, it’s just a matter of her staying healthy and out of trouble,” Montes said. “What she does on the field is easy for her. I’m blessed to have a player like that.
“I’m trying to build the program up and it starts with her. She’s our spark in practice. She puts it all on her shoulders, her teammates see that and she’s real comfortable in that role. I didn’t have to do a lot with her — it was all on her.”
Central Catholic’s Robert Mejia was voted the league’s boys MVP. Coach of the Year honors went to the VOL champions: Edgar Zelaya of the East Union boys (12-0-2 VOL, 19-2-4 overall) and Manuel Pires of the Sierra girls (13-1, 25-3).
Pires led the Timberwolves to their eighth Sac-Joaquin Section title-round appearance. They lost to Vista del Lago 3-1 in the Division III finals this past Saturday.
Sierra has a league-high seven players on the All-VOL first team: forwards Jadyn Shinn (42 goals, 24 assists) and Kaleigh Doyle (26 goals, 20 assists); midfielders Daisy Valencia (nine goals, seven assists), Kyndra Kiser (10 goals, 17 assists) and Jasmine Loaiza (goal, six assists); and defenders Alison Bitle and Kayley Alvarado.
Shinn finished eighth in the state in scoring. Doyle and Kiser are signed to CSU East Bay and UC Merced, respectively.
Stanislaus State East Union midfielder Ilena Rivera (24 goals) is joined by fellow Lancer Chelsey Medieros on the first team. Representing runner-up Manteca are forward Madison Burch (10 goals, seven assists), midfielder Jocelyn Reyes (16 goals, 15 assists) and defender Natalia Duran.
Area second-team selections are: Manteca goalie, Caitlyn McVeigh, Weston Ranch keeper Aliyah Guerrero, Lathrop defender Leanna Mom, Manteca defender Alexa Mayen, East Union midfielder, Britney Moneyhun, East Union midfielder Julia Vigallon, Lathrop midfielder Allison Alvarez, Weston Ranch midfielder Selena Landin and Sierra forward Yasmin Ballew.
Six East Union players made the all-league first team for boys: forwards Jesus Hurtado (27 goals, three assists) and Daniel Gomez (10 goals, 30 assists), midfielder Victor Hurtado (five goals, seven assists); defenders Cameron Chapman and Arturo Galvan; and goalkeeper Enrique Garcia. The Lancers reached the SJS Division III semifinals, where they were upset as the top seed by Central Valley via penalty-kick shootout.
Sierra finished fourth in the league but advanced to the SJS Division IV championship, losing to Pacheco in PKs. Timberwolves making the All-VOL first team are forward Eddie Aguilar (28 goals, 12 assists), midfielder David Lopez (16 goals, 15 assists) and defender Carlos Mendez.
Aron Navarrete (18 goals, eight assists) and Cesar Torres (goal, two assists) made the first-team cut for Manteca along with Lathrop’s Christian Cardenas (seven goals, six assists) and Weston Ranch’s Eduardo Medina.
Included on the all-league second team are Sierra goalie Saul Aguiniga, East Union defender Trent Rivera, East Union midfielder Giovanni Ruelas, East Union midfielder Hector Romero, Sierra midfielder Kevin Mendiola, Sierra forward Joel Lemus and Weston Ranch forward Bryant Ortiz.