Photo by Gerald Castillo
Celie Contreras digs into the record books
Celie Contreras always wanted to be a Rattler.
Actually, she just wanted to be like her older sister, Carlie. But Carlie was a Rattler, so Celie wanted to be a Rattler, too.
Carlie played softball and basketball growing up, which meant that Celie play softball and basketball growing up. But in seventh grade, Carlie decided she wanted to play volleyball.
“And that’s where Celie would start it, too,” said Carlie and Celie’s father, Carl Contreras.
“It was exciting because I wanted to be like (Carlie) when I grew up,” Celie said. “Because before that, I didn’t even know what volleyball was. And so when she tried out, I was like ‘Well, I want to be exactly like her.’”
After spectating one of Carlie’s matches or practices, Celie would try to imitate what she saw. She frequently took a ball to her backyard and practiced her serving by using the wall of the house as her target.
“A couple of times that ball hit our windows in the back,” said Carlie and Celie’s mother, Doris Contreras. “And we would just cringe thinking ‘OK, she’s going to break one.’”
Carlie played as a defensive specialist on the Lady Rattlers’ varsity squad during the 2012 and 2013 seasons. At the time, Celie was a setter on the Miller Middle School team. But once Carlie graduated and Celie moved up to high school, the younger sibling resolved to move to the back row, too.
By the time Celie got to San Marcos High School, Michelle Moreno knew her well. The head coach started her on the junior varsity team as a libero, hoping she would earn enough experience to bring her up to varsity the next season.
“(Celie) comes from a good family and I had a great experience with her older sister,” Moreno said. “She was very familiar with the game. Her attitude was very positive and she was a very hard worker … So, she came in at a higher level than most freshmen.”
The plan worked. Celie thrived on the JV squad and she spent the offseason getting reps in with the varsity players. Moreno followed through and made her the starting libero for the 2016 season.
Celie proved her worth almost immediately. After the Lady Rattlers’ first tournament of the season, the Corpus Christi Spikefest, Celie had already registered 120 digs in just six matches. Moreno told her she was on pace to break the single season record of 559, set by one of Carlie’s former teammates, Katherine Reeves.
The sophomore broke the record just two games into district play in a 3-1 road win at Del Valle on Sept. 27.
“They didn’t tell me at first,” Celie said. “They didn’t want to tell me because I had broken it in the middle of a game. So they were like ‘Nobody tell her.’”
Her team eventually told her after the match. For Celie, it was just another reason to celebrate. It was also her birthday.
“I was really calm about it. I was like ‘That’s exciting.’”
Celie finished her first season on varsity with 701 digs. The next record the libero wanted to break was Reeves’ 41 digs in a game. Celie never could quite get there, tying her career high of 33 on four different occasions. But striving to get there helped drive her toward a career milestone.
Entering her senior season, Celie had accumulated 1,284 digs in her career, just 104 shy of Reeves’ all-time record. She broke it again in the first tournament of the season.
After San Marcos fell 2-1 to Jenks at the John Turner Classic in Pearland, Doris ran up to her daughter with a huge smile.
“You did it,” Doris told her.
“I was just very emotional because it’s like, ‘Wow, it’s career.’” Celie said. “And it’s senior year and it’s exciting.”
The senior tallied 1,959 digs over her three seasons with the Lady Rattlers. She was named as a 2018 26-6A All-District honorable mention honorable mention and also made the All-District academic team.
Celie’s received a few offers to play at the collegiate level, but hasn’t chosen a school yet. She plans to major in finance and has made that her top priority in deciding which university she’ll attend. She’s come a long way from serving balls against the back wall of the house.
“She kind of still does that,” Carl said. “And then we have those windows there, and she’ll just every once in a while hit the window.”
“She just smiles,” Doris said. “She’ll smile and give us a thumbs up that it wasn’t broken.”