The 2006-07 Moffat County High School girls basketball, led by seniors Ashleigh Mann and Cayla Maneotis, built a strong foundation for the junior-laden club.
The Bulldogs were hoping to exorcise their 2006 Final Four demons, and bring a 4A state championship back to Craig, but a Sweet 16 loss to the Rifle Bears prevented that.
Veteran coach Craig Mortensen said MCHS didn't fail as much as it didn't quite reach the final goal.
"Our goals and expectations were so high at the beginning that when you come up short on those, it's very disappointing," Mortensen said. "It is nice to have our program at a point where if you don't make it to the Final Four it's a failure. For many years, we have felt like we could be one of the elite teams in the state, and we still feel that way."
The 2006-07 Bulldogs finished with a Western Slope record of 13-1, and an overall record of 22-3.
Next year, the Bulldogs return 10 of the 12 varsity members from this year's squad. They say goodbye to seniors Mann and Maneotis.
Mann, a 5-foot-5 guard, is headed to the University of Wyoming to study dental hygiene.
"We went far this year, but one of the downfalls is that we were expected to go so far and we fell short," she said. "We had our home town behind us. People aren't looking down at us. We're still supporting each other. Overall, we were a very unselfish team and recognized that it takes a whole team to win."
Maneotis, a 6-foot-5 center, has verbally committed to play basketball on a full-ride scholarship at the University of Northern Colorado and hopes to major in sport and exercise science.
Both Mann and Maneotis acknowledged walking off their home court Friday after falling to Rifle in overtime was a surreal feeling that hasn't fully sunk in yet.
"It was like really sad knowing that I wouldn't be putting a MCHS uniform on anymore," Maneotis said.
MCHS hosted the playoffs game Saturday afternoon between Rifle and Glenwood Springs, but Maneotis said she spent the day in Steamboat Springs to get her mind away from the game.
Mann smiled upon reflecting back to her bittersweet exit from the hardwood.
"It was devastating," she said. "There were definitely some tears in the locker room. Even at school (Monday) it was kind of a weird feeling."
Mann is making a quick transition to the soccer team, where she is a three-year letterman, while Maneotis plans to keep in shape before beginning her NCAA Division I career.
Mortensen said the 2007-08 squad would come out with a vengeance.
"When your season ends like ours did, you are really hungry but you feel like you only got a spoonful," he said.