Ceres High's varsity girls volleyball team returned to the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs this past week following a five-year absence.
The 16th-seeded Bulldogs dropped their Division-III out-bracket postseason match, 25-15, 25-22, 25-22, to No. 17 Bethel on Oct. 31 at Phil de la Porte Gymnasium.
"The most exciting thing is we didn't have one person carrying us this season," said Darlene Tobler, second-year head coach of Ceres High. "We got to playoffs and where we're at together."
The Jaguars improved to 10-7 on the year.
Bethel placed third in the Solano County Athletic Conference (9-6).
Ceres High finished second in the Western Athletic Conference (9-6).
"I love these girls so much," Tobler said. "Seeing the success for them makes all the time, hours and lack of sleep worth it. I've seen a lot of growth. They've blended really well. They'll remember these memories forever."
Ceres High experienced a major turnaround this fall.
The Bulldogs secured the Western Athletic Conference's second playoff berth with a 3-1 (25-21, 25-17, 23-25, 25-9) road win over crosstown-rival Central Valley.
Runner-up Ceres High finished one-game ahead of crosstown-rival Central Valley (8-7) in the WAC standings.
The Bulldogs lost their previous 12 matches to the Hawks dating back to the 2011 season.
Central Valley defeated Ceres High 3-2 (25-22, 21-25, 25-21, 7-25, 15-9) and 3-0 (25-13, 25-22, 25-19) earlier this year.
The Bulldogs improved their all-time record versus the Hawks to 10-13.
"I'm not really surprised at how much they improved," Tobler said. "I coached a lot of them at the lower levels. They're such hard workers. They always had hope and drive to win. They motivated each other so much to do well."
Ceres High last participated in the playoffs in 2010.
The Bulldogs' combined record in conference play from 2011-14 was 5-43.
Ceres High won just four matches in 2015.
"I'm very thankful Stephanie Hamilton called me and talked me into coaching," Tobler said. "It's one of the most fulfilling things I've done. I love the sport so much. We've all had a coach that has made a difference in our lives. I hope I can be that for them."
The Bulldogs will lose four players to graduation, including Kendall Meyer, Breanna Moreno and Rayohna Sagapolu and Raimee Mendoza.