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Central Valley boys suffer seventh loss in section finals
Miguel Sanchez
Miguel Sanchez and Central Valley’s varsity boys soccer team won three of four games en route to a second-place finish in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-II playoffs. The Hawks lost 4-3 on penalty kicks to the Bella Vista Broncos in the finals on Saturday in Galt. - photo by Dale Butler

Central Valley’s varsity boys soccer program made its seventh appearance in the Sac-Joaquin Section finals this past weekend.

The second-seeded Hawks had to settle for runner-up honors for the seventh time, losing 4-3 in a penalty-kick shootout to the fifth-seeded Bella Vista Broncos in the Division-II championship game Saturday evening at Liberty Ranch High School in Galt.

The Broncos earned their third straight section title. Bella Vista edged Central Valley 3-2 on penalty kicks in 2019.

“It’s heartbreaking to be that close again. There’s no other way to put it. It hurts. I feel empty.”
Erick Martinez Stucchi

“It’s heartbreaking to be that close again,” Hawks’ senior goalkeeper Erick Martinez Stucchi said. “There’s no other way to put it. It hurts. I feel empty.”

Central Valley appeared headed to victory before allowing a game-tying goal with less than five minutes to play in regulation. 

Bella Vista converted a penalty kick after drawing a foul in the box. The ball deflected off Martinez Stucchi’s hand, hit the post and went into the goal.

Sebastian Castillo gave the Hawks a 1-0 lead in the 66th minute.

“The game was within our grasp,” Martinez Stucchi said. “I was picturing hearing the final whistle blow, celebrating with the team and fans, and getting handed that blue banner. Everyone was. It’s unfortunate it didn’t play out the way we wanted it to. Everything we worked for went down the drain. We didn’t accomplish our main objective.”

Tied 1-1 after playing two 10-minute periods of overtime, a penalty-kick shootout was used to determine the winner.

Martinez Stucchi blocked Bella Vista’s first PK attempt.

“I got to the first one,” said Martinez Stucchi, who totaled eight saves in defeat. “It was a huge momentum swing.”

Castillo, Jorge Iniguez and Heriberto Paz Benitez proceeded to convert their penalty kicks for the Hawks.

Central Valley missed its final two PK’s.

The Hawks lost in the section finals for the third time in four years.

Central Valley’s varsity boys soccer program has won eight league titles and participated in the playoffs 12 times during its 15-year history.

“I have tremendous respect for him (longtime head coach Omar Leon),” Martinez Stucchi said. “It really hurts me a lot not being able to get him the blue banner. Central Valley will win one (eventually). When? I wish I could tell you. It’s just a matter of finishing the game.”

Central Valley, which dropped to 20-4-3 overall, will face host Sanger in the opening round of the Division-II NorCal Regional Soccer Championships this week.