E Capitan's departure to the Central California Conference has leveled the playing field in the Western Athletic Conference for the 2016 season and years to come.
"They were unbeatable," said Stephen Dias, head coach of Ceres High's varsity girls water polo program.
El Capitan won all eight of its matches en route to a first-place finish in the 2015 WAC standings.
The Dias-led Bulldogs (3-5) placed third.
Ceres High could return to the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs this year.
The Bulldogs last participated in the postseason in 2012.
"We lost some good players but that happens every year," Dias said. "The girls are really focused this year. They're working hard. I can see really good chemistry. It's a very refreshing team."
Ceres High returns several key players from last year's team, including Julia Pata (Sr.), Camryn Elness (Jr.), Kaitlyn Foster (Sr.) and Noelia de Leon (Jr.).
"They make coaching fun," Dias said. "They want to win. They're dedicated kids."
Pata, Elness and Foster were recognized for their outstanding play in a vote by the conference's head coaches last fall.
Julia was selected to the WAC First Team for the second time in three years.
She earned second-team all-league honors as a sophomore.
"I nominated her for league MVP last year," Dias said. "She deserved it. She has great skill, talent and drive. She's strong. She's just a natural athlete. She's still trying to reach her full potential. She doesn't want to be a ball hog. I want her to shoot more."
Pata totaled 14 goals as Ceres High beat Pacheco twice (19-8, 7-4) and Livingston once (9-7) in WAC play during her junior year.
"When I was pushing on her in the water at practice, she felt like a brick wall," Dias said. "She's rock solid. I told her to stop lifting weights. Other players are intimidated by her. She's a very sweet, soft-spoken kid out of the pool."
Julia was voted Ceres High's Female Athlete of the Year this past school year.
The multi-sport standout starred in swimming for the third year in a row and track and field for the first time last spring.
"She's a naturally, talented humble person," Dias said. "She's a perfectionist. She always wants to accomplish more. She's a great kid. I'm her coach but half the time I'm asking her for advice."
Elness will start at goalkeeper for the second straight season.
Camryn was selected to the WAC Second Team last year.
She tallied 36 blocks during the Bulldogs' three conference victories.
"She's strong," Dias said. "She's aggressive. She's pretty fearless. Over the summer, she researched workouts and lifted weights. She's self-motivated."
Foster was an honorable-mention selection.
She collected five goals against Pacheco and Livingston.
Julia and Camryn were both named team captains.
Madison Zamaroni (Sr.), Emily Campidonica (Jr.) and Camryn Silva (So.) are Ceres High's top newcomers.
Zamaroni, a varsity player in 2014, took last season off.
Silva and Campidonica contributed at the junior-varsity level in 2015.
Ceres High, which tripled its win total from a year ago in 2015, will strive for more improvement this spring.
The Bulldogs will play twice as many matches, half during the preseason.
Ceres High will compete at the McNair and Bret Harte tournaments.
The Bulldogs will also battle Bret Harte twice and Central Catholic once during head-to-head contests.
"We're playing 10 extra games this year," Dias said. "It's going to make us stronger by the end of the season. These girls want to work. It's taken me a couple of years to convince them winning is fun."
The WAC features four teams: Ceres High, Los Banos, Livingston and Pacheco.
Los Banos secured the conference's second and final playoff berth with a 6-2 record last year.
Ceres High and Livingston (3-5) tied for third place.
Pacheco (0-8) finished at the bottom of the standings.
The Bulldogs will begin the WAC season on Sept. 28. Ceres High will host Pacheco at 4 p.m.
"Los Banos is the team to beat," Dias said. "You can't underestimate Livingston. We'll go toe-to-toe with Pacheco."
Each contest lasts 28 minutes, excluding overtime.
"Water polo is a physical sport," Dias said. "There's no protection. It's you and a swim suit."