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CV girls soccer to raise the bar higher
• Hawks striving for return trip to section championships
Abigail Martinez (4) and Jocelyn Lopez (10) plan to help Central Valley’s varsity girls soccer team continue its tradition of excellence this winter. - photo by Dale Butler

A dominant force in the Stanislaus District, Central Valley’s varsity girls soccer team elevated its status to a top-flight program in the Sac-Joaquin Section, state and nation during the 2017-18 season.

The Hawks made their first-ever appearance in a section title game, posted a program-best 21-2-2 overall record, captured their third consecutive Western Athletic Conference championship, participated in the playoffs for the fourth year in a row and finished first at the Buchanan Tournament in Clovis.

Central Valley climbed to No. 1 in the state and No. 12 in the nation in the MaxPreps rankings on Dec. 15, 2017 thanks to a 9-0-2 showing during the preseason.

The Hawks will try to win their first section crown and fourth straight league title this winter. Central Valley returns a wealth of talent from a year ago as just four players were lost to graduation.

“A lot of the girls know this is their last year. They’re very motivated. They’re looking forward to getting back to the section finals and winning it. It’s not going to be easy.”
Miguel Larranaga

 “A lot of the girls know this is their last year,” said Miguel Larranaga, second-year leader of the Hawks and the WAC’s co-Head Coach of the Year in 2017-18. “They’re very motivated. They’re looking forward to getting back to the section finals and winning it. It’s not going to be easy.”

Central Valley’s top returning players are Jocelyn Lopez (Sr.), Jackie Sanchez (Sr.), Abigail Martinez (Sr.), Citlaly Salinas (Jr.), Mixtly Vega (Sr.) and Amanda Calvo (Sr.).

 Lopez was named Most Valuable Player of the WAC last season.

She ranked first in conference play in points (49) and goals (22), and was third in assists (5).

Jocelyn collected 33 goals and nine assists on the year.

Sanchez, Martinez and Salinas all earned first-team all-conference honors.

Sanchez ranked first in the WAC in assists (10) and third in goals scored (7).

Martinez tallied seven goals and six assists.

Salinas had two goals and three assists.

She was voted WAC co-Defensive Player of the Year as a freshman.

Vega and Calvo were second-team all-league picks.

Vega had four goals and four assists.

The Hawks’ top newcomers are Yaira Contreras (Jr.), Anusha Kumar (Jr.), Malina Keomuangchanh (Fr.) and Alapdeep Singh (Fr.).

Central Valley notched nine wins, one loss and no ties during the 2017-18 WAC campaign.

The Hawks split with Ceres High, and beat Livingston, Patterson, Pacheco and Los Banos twice.

Central Valley had its program-record, tying 17-game unbeaten streak snapped by crosstown-rival Ceres High.

The Hawks will compete in the Central California Conference this season.

Central Valley moved from the WAC to the CCC as part of the section’s league realignment plan.

The revamped CCC features seven teams: Central Valley, Patterson, Atwater, Buhach Colony, Golden Valley, Merced and El Capitan.

“This league is more competitive,” Larranaga said. “I still expect the girls to place first and have a good run in the playoffs.”

The Hawks enjoyed their best season to date last winter.

Central Valley’s incredible run ended with a 1-0 loss to Woodland in the Division-III section championship game.

The Hawks advanced to the finals after edging out Sierra (5-4 in penalty kicks), Vista del Lago (4-2 in PKs) and Pioneer (1-0).

“Everybody expected us to win the game,” Larranga said. “We fell short. It still hurts. I told the girls to not think about playoffs until we win league. We’re going to compete for that (section) title. That’s what we want. That’s our goal. I still believe we can do it.”