Ceres High School's varsity girls soccer team dropped out of playoff contention late in the season a year ago.
The Bulldogs (6-4-2, 20 points) finished in fourth place in the Western Athletic Conference standings, one spot ahead of the crosstown-rival Hawks (3-9, 9 points).
Ceres High and Central Valley will both try to end years of frustration in 2013 by securing postseason berths.
The Bulldogs made their lone playoff appearance in program history during the 1990s.
The Hawks have never participated. Central Valley fielded its first-ever girls soccer team in 2007.
"It's been a long time since I've had a group like this," Hawks head coach Cyndi Meshach said prior to the start of a recent preseason game. "Everybody is here. Everybody shows up to practice on time. It's like coaching a competitive team. There's a positive vibe on the field. They're all charged. They feed off each other."
"If our defense holds up, and we don't have a lot of injuries, I think we can make the playoffs," Ceres High head coach Javier Mercado said. "I'll be happy for the girls. They really want to win. They hate to lose."
The Bulldogs' top returners are Dayana Delgado (Sr.), Fabiana Soto (Sr.), Angelica Slater (So.), Laura Barajas (Sr.), Ruby Alberto (Sr.), Jacqueline Gonzalez (Jr.), Arcelia Hermosillo (Jr.), Gisselle Madrigal (Jr.) and Victoria Andrade (Jr.).
Delgado was selected to the WAC Second Team as a junior. She starred at goalkeeper.
Dayana will team up with Slater and varsity newcomers Karina Torres (Fr.), Kassandra Lopez (Jr.) and Angelica Benitez (Jr.) on defense. Ceres High lost three starters from last year's unit, including two (Anissa Torres and Brittany Valadez) to graduation and one (Katya Hernandez) to another sport.
"Our strengths are our midfield and forwards," Mercado said. "Our defense is going to get better and better. That's why I have confidence in the team."
The Hawks' top returners are Dayelle Cueto (Sr.), Emely Amaya (So.), Michelle Hernandez (Sr.), Jacquline Vasquez (Sr.), Vivian Valadez (Sr.), Martha Gonzalez (Jr.), Jessica Calderon (Sr.), Alex Covarrubias (Sr.) and Erykah Magana (Sr.).
Ivonne Orozco (Jr.) and Rocio Beltran (Jr.), Johansen transfers, will contribute as well.
Cueto earned second-team accolades for her contributions at forward as a junior. She broke an ankle during indoor soccer a few months ago and has yet to be cleared to play. Dayelle could return to the lineup in April.
Covarrubias and Magana will split time at goalkeeper for the second year in a row.
The top three teams in the WAC qualify for postseason.
Patterson, Livingston and Central Catholic advanced last year.
Central Catholic (7-2-3, 24 points) edged out Ceres High for the final playoff berth in 2012. The two teams tied twice.
"Central Catholic has the best chance to win league," Mercado said. "The rest of the teams will be even. We want to finish in the top three. It's going to be interesting."
"The girls really want to go to playoffs," Meshach said. "They're working hard."
The Bulldogs beat the Hawks twice (3-1, 1-0) last year.
"The girls are already talking about Ceres High," Meshach said. "That drives me nuts. We have other games to play."