Central Valley High School’s youth-laden boys soccer team playoff run ended in the semifinals of the Division-I bracket this past weekend.
The sixth-seeded Hawks lost 6-3 on the road to the second-seeded Whitney Wildcats on Saturday.
“They have an impressive team,” Hawks’ head coach Horatio Garcia said. “It’s senior-heavy. When it came to the physical aspect of the game, they had the advantage. Size-wise, there’s no comparison. Most of their players are six-footers.”
Alexis Cervantes led Central Valley with one goal and one assist.
Ivan Cervantes and Yahir Perez both scored once.
Oscar Mercado made three saves at goalkeeper.
The Hawks trailed 4-1 at halftime.
Central Valley allowed three goals in the opening 10 minutes.
“Their style of play is fast and high tempo,” Garcia said.
“We played a lot better in the second half,” he added.
Whitney outscored its previous two opponents, 14-0.
“No one scored on them in their past two playoff games,” Garcia said. “We were one of two teams to score three goals against them the entire season. And they’ve played some really good competition.”
Central Valley pulled away for a 2-0 win over 14th-seeded McClatchy in the quarterfinals on Feb. 16 in Ceres.
“It was a close game,” Garcia said.
Perez and Alexis Cervantes led the Hawks with one goal apiece.
Diego Ochoa had one assist.
Mercado totaled five saves.
Tied at 0-0, Central Valley outscored McClatchy 2-0 in the final 15 minutes.
“We controlled possession of the ball and that created problems for them,” Garcia said.
Host Central Valley edged 11th-seeded Gregori 1-0 on Feb. 14.
“We got a goal in the first half and that set the momentum for the rest of the game,” Garcia said.
Alexis Cervantes accounted for the game-winning goal.
He scored in the 25th minute.
Younger brother Ivan Cervantes assisted.
Mercado totaled two saves.
“We knew it was going to be a tough game,” said Garcia, whose team earned a hard-fought 2-1 win over Gregori on Nov. 23. “We faced them in the preseason.”
The Hawks finished in the top four while competing in the Division-I playoff bracket for the first time.
“That’s really impressive,” Garcia said. “I’m not surprised. There’s a lot of talent at Central Valley.”
“I’m proud of every single player,” he added. “
A tough regular-season schedule prepared the Hawks for the postseason.
Twelve of Central Valley’s opponents qualified for the playoffs, including Golden Valley, Atwater, Patterson, East Union, Reedley, Vista del Lago, Modesto High, Pitman, Clovis West, Central (Fresno), Riverbank and Livingston.
“We were in fifth place in league at one time,” Garcia said. “Then, everything started to click. The pressure helped them perform better.”
The Hawks posted an 18-6-6 overall record and finished in second place in the CCC standings (7-3-2) this winter.
Central Valley had high expectations despite its lack of experience.
“Even though we had a young team, I knew we’d make a run for league and section titles,” Garcia said. “There’s still room for improvement. We’re going to do even better next year. The future is bright.”