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Bulldogs' amazing streak comes to an end
The streak started in 1986. It spanned close to a quarter of a century. The United States had five different Presidents, including Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

On May 14, the Bulldogs lost 7-1 to East Union and had their string of consecutive CIF Sac-Joaquin Section playoff appearances snapped at 24 seasons.

"It's a dagger to the heart," Ceres High head coach Donnie Donaldson said. "The girls are very competitive. They don't like to lose, period. They wanted to win for themselves, me, the school and the girls of the past. They didn't want to be a part of a team that didn't get there."

Added former Bulldogs coach Mike Corsaut: "These girls are going to learn from this and come back stronger."

Ceres High held a two-game lead over Sierra heading into the final week of the VOL season. The Timberwolves swept Weston Ranch, East Union and Manteca to force a third-place tie in the standings at 11-5 with the Bulldogs. Sierra was awarded the conference's final playoff berth because of its 2-0 record against Ceres High. The Bulldogs hurt themselves by dropping two of their final three games.

"Sierra had a phenomenal second half of the season," Donaldson said. "They beat everybody except Oakdale. We did the same thing last year."

Ceres High couldn't generate the same magic this year.

The Bulldogs needed to beat second-place East Union on the final day of the VOL season to qualify for the playoffs.

Ceres High shortstop Jode Johnson hit a solo homer in the top of the first inning.

The Lancers outscored the Bulldogs 7-0 the rest of the way.

"There was a lot of people there," Donaldson said. "The girls were nervous.

They really wanted to win the game. There was a huge amount of pressure."

"We focused all of our energy into the game," said Johnson, a third-year starter. "We tried as hard as we could. The pressure got to us. It (the result against East Union) determined if we'd go or not. For me, being a part of the streak was an honor."

Ceres High's tradition of excellence dates back to 1986.

The Bulldogs won more than 500 games, advanced to the section title game four times (took first in 1995) and captured 12 league titles during the 24-year playoff streak.

Ceres High's pitching stable included Jennifer Turner, Sarah Norwood, Stacy Duncan, Amy Cucinella, Danielle de la Porte, Brianne Ferguson, Omaira Estremera, Jennifer Arnold, Vaneza Hoover and Kaycee Creek.

Danielle and Sarah ranked second and third, respectively, on California's all-time career wins list upon graduation. The duo combined for 180 victories, including 91 by de la Porte.

The Bulldogs have had a host of great all-round players over the years, including Meghan Franksen, Kari Abbey, Jessica Addison and Alicia McLelland.

Danielle, Kari and Jessica led Ceres High to its first-ever section crown. The Bulldogs placed second in 1989, 1991 and 1993.

"Every girl played some form of travel ball," Corsaut said while talking about some of the reasons behind Ceres High's successful run. "That separated us from everybody else."

The Bulldogs claimed four league titles, posted a 71-13 record in conference play and advanced to the playoffs five times during Corsaut's tenure (2002-06). Ceres High finished a perfect 18-0 in the Central California Conference in 2002. The Bulldogs won back-to-back Modesto Metro Conference championships (2005, 2006) before moving back to the Valley Oak League in 2007.

"Ceres' legacy goes back 20-plus years," Corsaut said. "No other program in this County can say that. We had former players come back and talk about it (the streak). It was a privilege to be a part of."

Under Donnie's direction the past four seasons, Ceres High amassed a 60-38-3 record (41-17 league), participated in the playoffs three times and finished runner-up in the VOL twice.

The Bulldogs totaled 17 wins, nine losses and one tie this year. Ceres High batted .343 from the plate as a team but committed 49 errors on defense.

"Donnie's done a fantastic job with the girls," Corsaut said. "He's worked hard. Other coaches in the VOL will say the same thing."

The Bulldogs will compete in a different league in 2011. Ceres High and crosstown rival Central Valley will join Central Catholic, Livingston, Patterson and Los Banos in the Western Athletic Conference.

Creek, Ryan Norton, Cierra Hammons, Jessica Ellsworth, Taiylor Sakurada and Jamie Beck will try to lead the Bulldogs back to the postseason.

"Everybody expects Ceres to win and go to the playoffs," Donaldson said. "We definitely have the talent to start a new streak."

Ceres High has a tradition of excellence to live up to every year.