Ceres High School's varsity boys water polo team faced a tall task when it played against Ripon in the opening round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-II playoffs.
The Valley Oak League champion Indians led from start to finishing during their 22-3 pasting of the Western Athletic Conference runner-up Bulldogs on Nov. 6 at Woodcreek High School.
"Certainly, we would have liked to have a better showing," Ceres High head coach Tracy Bull said. "But that's what I expected. It could have been a lot worse. They're so good. That is by far the most disciplined team we've seen all year. They're fast and strong. They know the game."
The Indians limited two-time WAC Most Valuable Player/Bulldog senior Zachary Jones to just one goal.
"It's a tough way to end his career," Bull said. "He's one of Ceres High's all-time greatest scorers."
Bulldog junior Timothy Campbell scored twice versus Ripon.
Sean Carr totaled six blocks while making his final start at goalkeeper for Ceres High.
The Indians and their eight-person roster dominated all facets of the game.
"The one positive thing from the game is all 17 of my players got to play," Bull said. "That's nice because you never know if you're going back to playoffs."
Campbell's first goal evened the score at 1-1 midway through the first period.
Ripon dominated the rest of the way.
"It went a long time before we were able to score again," Bull said. "They were amazing. It seemed like every time they did shoot it, they scored. They got three guys that are as fast as Zach. We just weren't good enough."
The Bulldogs ran into a buzzsaw as they drew the No. 1 overall seed in the playoff tournament.
"Their head coach's dad won a gold medal in the Olympics," Bull said. "I learned to coach water polo watching YouTube."
Ceres High posted an 8-3 overall record and placed second in the WAC standings (6-2).
The Bulldogs will graduate several key players from this year's squad, including Jones, Carr and Erik Weststeyn.
Ceres High will rely heavily on Campbell and Fernando Olmos next season. Fellow returnees Bobby Baranski, Logan Kier and Cole Silva will also contribute.
"I certainly believe the talent level is strong enough to make a run at playoffs again," said Bull, whose team will be vying for its fourth-straight postseason berth. "I'm kind of curious to see if we can be as successful without Zach."