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Hawks soccer team zeroes in on first playoff berth
Central Valley High School's varsity boys soccer program inched closer to securing its first-ever Sac-Joaquin Section postseason berth with a 1-0 win over East Union in a physical Valley Oak League battle on Thursday in Ceres.

"Everybody's very happy," first-year head coach Omar Leon said.

The Hawks (7-3-1) have 22 points and sit in the third and final spot in the VOL, five points ahead of crosstown rival Ceres High (5-5-2).

Central Valley had to forfeit its first three conference games, including a win and two ties, for inadvertently using an ineligible player.

Two other teams were punished for similar violations: first-place Manteca (8-2-1) and fifth-place East Union (4-6-2).

With just two contests remaining, the Hawks must collect one more point to make history. Teams earn three points for a win and one for a tie. Central Valley just missed out on the postseason last year, finishing in fourth-place at 9-5.

"We're very confident," Leon said. "But we're not underestimating anybody."

The Hawks broke a scoreless tie against the Lancers when Pedro Gomez converted a penalty kick eight minutes into the second half.

East Union goalkeeper Michael Depedrini stopped a first-half penalty kick.

"It was a very competitive game," Leon said. "Nobody wanted to give up anything."

Eddy Salinas, Diego Zepeda, Ricardo Reynoso and Marvin Lopez starred on defense. Salinas made four saves for Central Valley, which has allowed just 11 goals in conference play.

"We have the second-best defense in the VOL," Leon said. "They've been doing a wonderful job all season. They've really shined."

The Hawks haven't tasted defeat for close to a month, compiling a 6-0-1 record. Their last loss came at East Union (3-2) on Sept. 25, a day after Central Valley learned it had to forfeit some games.

"I'm very proud of them," Leon said. "They're playing positions they usually don't play. They know that it's for the benefit of the group."

Senior-laden Central Valley will play host to Weston Ranch and Ceres High this week.