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Buffs blank Bulldogs in soccer
Goalie Angelmarie Coral makes the diving save on an Ivy Benson breakaway attempt during Ceres Highs 2-0 loss to host Manteca in the opening round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-III playoffs on May 10. - photo by JONAMAR JACINTO/The Courier

Facing a tie-or-win scenario, Ceres High School's varsity girls soccer team rallied for a 4-3 victory at Livingston on May 4 to secure the Western Athletic Conference's final postseason berth.

The Bulldogs were awarded the final spot in the Division-III playoff bracket.

Sixteenth-seeded Ceres High mustered just three shots on goal during its 2-0 opening-round loss to No. 1 Manteca on May 10 at Guss Schmiedt Field.

"I tried to motivate them," Bulldogs head coach Miguel Saldate said. "They were nervous in the first half. We played better in the second half. They didn't score on us."

Ceres High posted a 12-6-1 overall record and finished third in the Western Athletic Conference (8-3-1) this spring.

Manteca, which won the Valley Oak League crown at 12-1-1, improved to 22-2-1 on the year. "Our first goal was to defend our title," said Saldate, whose team placed first in the WAC in 2015. "The girls were a little upset not winning it this year. We accomplished our second goal. We qualified for playoffs. Overall, everybody did great. We had a good group."

Bulldog sophomore goalkeeper Angelmarie Coral made 13 saves.

Leah Manuleleua and Kaitlynn Funsch tallied goals in the 18th and 34th minutes, respectively, as the Buffaloes built a 2-0 lead in the opening 40 minutes.

Ceres High limited Manteca to just six shots during the second half.

"We had a couple of chances to score," Saldate said.

The Buffaloes posted their 15th shutout of the season.

Ceres High made program history this year by securing its second consecutive playoff berth.

The Bulldogs will have high hopes heading into next season.

Ceres High could return as many as 10 of 11 starters.

Captain Karina Torrez will be lost to graduation as will bench players Paula Alvarez, Jennifer Cisneros, Allyson Hailey, Anna Mejia and Kalania Souphaphone.

Saldate plans to add several incoming freshmen players with travel-ball experience to his roster during the 2016-17 school year.

"We'll see more girls fighting for starting spots," Saldate said. "It's going to make it more competitive at practice. We're going to do better."