Most will see the gaudy goal totals.
Jose Montes sees much more in Kassandra Ceja, who wears the captain’s armband for a reason. Lathrop High’s scoring machine was named MVP in the school’s first year in the Western Athletic Conference. The Spartans finished in third place at 10-4 (11-8-1 overall) and reached the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs for the first time.
Ceja, meanwhile, amassed 54 goals — in league. The junior forward ended as the state’s co-leader in goals scored with Fresno Christian’s Rylee Schwab, according to MaxPreps. They each totaled 61 goals.
It’s the second time in three years that Ceja has earned MVP honors. She got the award as a freshman in the powerhouse Valley Oak League.
Ceja is one of five Spartans from the boys and girls soccer teams to get All-WAC honors.
“She’s having a remarkable high school career,” Montes said. “She got hurt last year and played with injuries, but her numbers were still good. This year, she was just phenomenal
“She is very creative and doesn’t need a lot of space to do her stuff. Everything she does is preplanned before she gets the ball and it shows. She finds a way to get a shot on goal even when triple teamed.”
No WAC opponent had an answer for the shrewd striker, who had at least one goal in every league match. Ceja burned teams for at least five on eight occasions
Following a competitive 3-2 loss to WAC champion Beyer, Lathrop ended the regular season with five straight wins to reach the postseason. Ceja accounted for 22 of her club’s 30 goals during that stretch
“She puts in the work,” Montes said. “It’s not like things come easy for her, she puts in the work in practice and it pays off.
“What I like is she’s directing and helping her teammates during practice and the game. She is very humble.”
Senior defender Cydney Garcia was named to the All-WAC first team She has signed to Notre Dame de Namur. Freshman Isa Paniagua, who split time at defense, midfield and goalie, made second team.
Beyer freshman Emma Albino earned Offensive Player of the Year after amassing 22 goals and 27 assists. Beyer’s Ryan Leonetti is Coach of the Year. The Patriots went undefeated in league and ended 20-2 overall, losing to eventual SJS Division III champion Sierra in the semifinals.
Representing Lathrop (1-11-2, 1-19-2) on the All-WAC boys first team is senior Chris Reyes. Logan Gazaway was selected to the second team.
Two major awards went to WAC champion Johansen (12-0-2, 15-2-4) — Alejandro Murillo is Offensive Player of the Year and Ryan White is Coach of the Year. MVP honors went to Saul Ruiz, who helped WAC runner-up Ceres win the SJS Division III banner.