Tears were shed following the ninth-seeded Ceres High varsity girls soccer team's 2-1 overtime loss at No. 8 Benicia in the first round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-III playoffs on May 5.
"Benicia had a good team," Bulldogs head coach Miguel Saldate said. "I thought we were going to win. It didn't happen. The girls never gave up. They were fighting until the last second of the game. They played awesome."
Ceres High surprised just about everyone this season by capturing its first-ever conference title and making just its second playoff appearance in program history.
The Bulldogs were a model of consistency in Western Athletic Conference play, compiling a 9-1-2 record.
"It's exciting," Saldate said. "We made history for our school. We had great moments. Pushing them a little extra helped."
Ceres High and Benicia battled for 90-plus minutes.
Benicia scored the winning goal four minutes into the second 10-minute overtime.
Benicia and Ceres High traded goals in the opening half.
Benicia grabbed a 1-0 lead in the 27th minute.
Ceres High sophomore Jaden Dellafosse evened the score with an unassisted goal.
Bulldog freshman goalkeeper Angelmarie Coral totaled nine saves.
"The girls played hard," Saldate said. "It was a good game."
The top three teams in the WAC qualified for the playoffs, including Ceres High, Livingston (8-3-1, 25 points) and Central Valley (8-3-1, 25 points).
Central Valley lost 2-0 to East Union, the top overall seed.
Dixon defeated Livingston 5-1 in the Division-IV bracket.
Ceres High compiled a 2-0-1 record against crosstown-rival Central Valley this season.
Ceres High beat and tied Livingston once.
Ceres High captured its first-ever conference title with a 2-0 win over Livingston.
"Everything changed after we lost 1-0 to Livingston," Saldate said. "That's when the girls started playing harder. They knew they could do better. They were very motivated. We got them in the second round."
A doormat for most of its years of existence, Ceres High's varsity girls soccer team reached unprecedented heights in 2015.
"To be honest with you, no," Saldate said when asked if he expected his team to experience a breakthrough season this year. "We had better communication after league started. I'm very happy with the way the girls played. They played for their school. They played for their colors."
Ceres High relied on experience and youth this season.
The Bulldogs will lose seven players to graduation, including Adilene Alberto, Lisette Carretero, Crystal Carrillo, Cindy Marquez, Angelica Slater, Vanessa Soto and Justine Vega.
Alberto, Carretero, Carrillo and Slater all started.
Dellafosse, Miranda Wilds (Fr.), Breanna Moreno (So.), Allyson Hailey (Jr.), Karina Torrez (Jr.), Cristina Arreola (So.), Angelita Cerrillo (So.), Dominique Koeurn (So.) and Angelmarie Coral (Fr.) will return to the team.
"Our goal for next year is to finish in the top three in the WAC," Saldate said. "Our second goal will be to finish in first place. Of course, we want to be league champions again. It's not going to be easy. We're starting all over again. The pressure is going to be there. We're going to try to work around it. We don't want it to be an obstacle."