Ceres High's varsity girls soccer team outplayed host Merced in the opening 20 minutes of their Sac-Joaquin Section Division-III playoff game last week.
Seeded 14th, the upset-minded Bulldogs mustered just one goal the rest of the way en route to losing 5-2 to the No. 3 Bears on Wednesday at McNamara Park.
"It hurts a little bit," Ceres High head coach Miguel Saldate said. "We could have won. We made some mistakes that cost us the game. Overall, we're pretty happy with what we did this season. We accomplished our objectives."
The Bulldogs (12-7-3) qualified for the playoffs for the third year in a row and finished in second place in the Western Athletic Conference standings (11-4-0).
"I consider the season a success," Saldate said. "We did what we wanted to do. But we could have done better."
Breanna Moreno had a memorable final game for Ceres High.
She had two goals.
"She was very focused," Saldate said. "She played really hard. She wanted to win."
Sophomore Mariah Trevino collected one assist.
Freshman Siriana Gudino made eight saves while starting at goalkeeper.
Junior Angelmarie Coral had three saves during the final 10 minutes of the game.
Merced erased a one-goal deficit on its way to building a 2-1 lead in the opening 40 minutes.
"I was pretty confident," Saldate said. "We still had a chance."
The Bears outscored the Bulldogs 3-1 during the second half.
Merced dashed Ceres High's upset bid.
"We should have done better," said Saldate, whose team allowed three goals in the closing 20 minutes. "We had lots of opportunities to score. Merced did what it had to do."
The Bulldogs could return as many as 16 players from this year's team in 2018.
Moreno, Cristina Arreola, Dominique Koeurn, Ceres High's team captains, and Celeste Mariscal will be lost to graduation. "The season went by quick," Saldate said. "It (playoffs) was a good experience for next year."
Ceres High's compiled a 34-17-6 overall record (28-8-3 WAC play), claimed one conference title and participated in the playoffs every season during Saldate's three-year tenure as head coach.
"We had a good team this year," Saldate said. "The girls played hard."