Ravaged by injuries, Ceres High School's varsity boys soccer team struggled mightily in losing 6-0 at East Union in non-conference play on Sept 10.
The Bulldogs and Lancers faced off in the first round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-III playoffs last week.
Eleventh-seeded Ceres High lost 2-1 to sixth-seeded East Union on Nov. 3 at Dino Cunial Field in Manteca.
"It's a game we could have won," Bulldogs head coach Miguel Saldate said. "We had a lot of scoring opportunities, shots that could have been goals. We just couldn't finish."
Ceres High compiled a 13-8-2 record this year.
East Union improved to 12-3-2.
"We could have done better," Saldate said while talking about his team's overall play this season. "We lost some close games. Every game was a challenge. It was fun."
Miguel Bazoco accounted for the Bulldogs' lone goal versus the Lancers.
Adrian Espinoza collected the assist.
Ceres High goalkeeper Martin Reyes had five saves.
Lino Cerda and Gerardo Romero both scored once for East Union.
Jesus Hurtado and Marco Gonzales dished out one assist each.
Lancer goalkeeper Trent Rivera Jr. made eight saves.
"They had fewer chances to score but capitalized," Saldate said.
Cerda broke a scoreless tie in the 33rd minute when he headed Hurtado's pass into the back of the net.
Romero's 20-yard shot increased East Union's lead to 2-0 in the 60th minute.
Bazoco cut the deficit to 2-1 with a header in the waning minutes of the game. Espinoza delivered the pass.
"I'm just glad with the way we came back," Saldate said. "We could have done some things different early. We played a little nervous."
The Bulldogs had their 2015 campaign cut by the Lancers.
Ceres High needed to pull off an upset to extend its season.
"They were sad, especially the seniors, knowing we could have done better," Saldate said.
East Union earned the right to play third-seeded Patterson (13-3-3, 8-2-2) in the quarter-final round of the playoffs.
The Tigers placed second in the WAC standings.
"It's going to be a good game," Saldate said. "East Union likes to play long ball a lot. They don't create plays from bottom to top."
A year ago at this time, Ceres High failed to qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2007.
The Bulldogs returned to the postseason in 2015 despite competing with a revamped roster.
"They all played as a team," Saldate said. "Our communication was better. That helped a lot."
Ceres High (6-6-0) edged out crosstown Central Valley (5-7-0) for the WAC's fourth and final playoff berth.
"We're all glad we got there (to playoffs)," Saldate said. "We got fourth and knocked our rival out."
Ceres High will lose five key players to graduation: Juan Castillo, Ulises Diaz, Brandon Garcia, Christian Garcia and Martin Reyes.
The Bulldogs will return a host of talent from this season's team next fall, including Andrott Alvarez, Adrian Covarrubias, Adrian Espinoza, Gustavo Hernandez, Donnavin Koeurn, Max Lopez, Osvaldo Padilla
Ceres High will be vying for its second straight playoff appearance in 2016.
"It's going to be tough," Saldate said. "We need to work a little harder. That will make a difference."