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LB edges CHS for WAC water polo title
Bulldogs compile 7-2 league record
Camryn Silva filled a key role while leading Ceres High to a runner-up finish in the WAC standings this fall. - photo by DALE BUTLER/The Courier

Ceres High's varsity girls water polo team found itself in unchartered territory this past week.

Tied for first place with Los Banos, the Bulldogs and Tigers battled for the Western Athletic Conference championship.

Vying for its first-ever conference title, Ceres High lost in heart-breaking fashion to visiting Los Banos on Oct. 24.

The Tigers prevailed, 8-7.

"You work so hard," Ceres High head coach Stephen Dias said. "You get that close and lose. That's the tough part. I'm still proud of them. They made it this far. We'll pick up the pieces and move on."

Camryn Silva scored a team-high five goals for the Bulldogs.

Julia Pata added two goals.

Ceres High goalkeeper Camryn Elness totaled 16 saves.

"She (Elness) did amazing," Dias said. "That's definitely her best game of the season."

The WAC-title match was decided in the final minute.

Savannah Valenzuela's close-range goal gave Los Banos an 8-7 lead with 40 seconds left to play.

In an attempt to surprise Los Banos' goalie, Pata unleashed a potential game-tying shot from the middle of the pool.

"They played keep away at that point and the time ran out," Dias said. "It was a heart-breaking moment."

Ceres High fell one win shy of making program history.

The Bulldogs compiled a 1-2 record against the Tigers this year.

"Obviously, they wanted it as bad as we did," Dias said. "We gave it our best shot. We didn't play a bad game. We were right there."

Ceres High closed out the WAC campaign with a 3-2 win over Livingston on Wednesday.

Elness made five saves.

Silva, Emily Campidonica and Savannah Zielke all had one goal.

The Bulldogs improved to 16-2 on the year and won seven of nine matches en route to a runner-up finish in the WAC standings.

Ceres High had its 13-game unbeaten streak snapped by Los Banos during the second meeting between the two teams on Oct. 12. The Tigers won, 8-6.

Ceres High edged Los Banos 12-9 on Oct. 3.

"They grew so much this year," said Dias, whose team won just three conference matches in 2015. "I'm very proud of them. I don't think they should be disappointed in themselves."

Ceres High, which made its first-ever postseason appearance in 2012, will face Buhach Colony in the first round of the Division-II playoffs today in Atwater at 5:30 p.m. The Bulldogs and Thunder are seeded 12th and fifth, respectively.

"They're going to be really tough," Dias said.