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CV girls soccer team to build on its tradition
Sophomore Jocelyn Lopez will star on Central Valleys varsity girls soccer squad for the second year in a row. Lopez earned first-team all-Western Athletic Conference honors as a freshman. - photo by DALE BUTLER/The Courier

Central Valley's varsity girls soccer program has a new leader.

Maria Briones inherits a team hungry to make more history.

The Hawks, 19-4-1 in Western Athletic Conference play the past two seasons, will be favored to win their second straight league championship and qualify for the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs for the third year in a row this winter.

"We have a lot of returning players," third-year starter Mariana Garibay said. "We expect to go far. We should win WAC and go to playoffs. There's some pressure. But we don't think about it. We just play to have fun and win."

Central Valley's roster is loaded with talent and experience.

The Hawks' top returning players are Garibay (Jr.), Jocelyn Lopez (So.), Abigail Martinez (So.), Mixtly Vega (So.), Jackie Sanchez (So.), Yesenia Bernal (Sr.), Jaquelynn Chavez (Sr.), Andrea Ornelas (Sr.), Emely Lopez (Jr.), Laiza Quintero (Jr.), Trinity Avila (So.), Jocelyn Rodriguez (So.) and Sarah Silva (So.).

Ariel Cortez (Sr.), Daisy Larios (Sr.), Rocio Villasenor (Sr.), Nayeli Castellanos (Jr.), Guadalupe Gomez (Jr.), Daniela Salazar (Jr.), Amanda Calvo (So.), Citlaly Salinas (Fr.) and Estefani Serrato (Fr.) are newcomers.

Garibay and Lopez were both selected to the WAC First Team last season.

Martinez, Vega and Sanchez earned second team all-conference honors.

Central Valley's team captains in 2016 are Mariana, Jocelyn, Abigail and Jaquelynn.

"The majority of girls have been playing together for a long time," Garibay said. "We have a strong bond. We care for each other."

"There's a lot of talent on the team," Briones said. "Anyone can replace anyone. The strength is their communication. Their speed and ball touch is phenomenal. Our main focus is to play our game, be aggressive."

Central Valley enjoyed its best season to date during the 2015-16 school year by claiming its first conference title and participating in the playoffs for the second consecutive year.

The Hawks won 19 of 21 games, including 10 straight, and captured the WAC crown with a near-perfect 11-1-0 record.

Central Valley earned its first playoff victory while finishing in the top eight in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-III bracket.

The Hawks topped Ripon, Johansen and Linden en route to winning the title at their home tournament for the first time.

"We really wanted to accomplish so much for ourselves and the school," Garibay said.

Central Valley enjoyed a breakthrough season in 2014-15. The Hawks advanced to the postseason for the first time and placed third in the WAC standings (8-3-1).

"Girls soccer doesn't get a lot of recognition," Garibay said. "Everyone is very supportive of us now."

Central Valley will face crosstown-rival Ceres High twice this season.

The Hawks collected 3-1 and 4-1 victories against the Bulldogs last year.

Garibay, Martinez, Quintero, Salinas and Emely Lopez, and Ceres High's Miranda Wilds, Edith Larranaga, Mariah Trevino, Siriana Gudino and Arianah Martinez are members of the Ceres Earthquakes 17-and-under travel team.

"It will be competitive," Garibay said. "They're our rivals. Obviously, we want to beat them more than other schools."

Central Valley had a combined record of 40-47-12 in conference play during Cyndi Meshach's eight-year tenure as head coach. The Hawks accumulated 29 wins, 13 losses and five draws over the past four seasons.

Central Valley was 5-23 under different leadership from 2006-08.

Meshach, WAC Coach of the Year the past two seasons, changed Central Valley's varsity girls soccer program for the better.

"They (Cyndi and Maria) both have similar characteristics," Garibay said. "They're both really competitive. They both want us to succeed."

"I want to continue what was built here before and go beyond," said Briones, a Spanish teacher at CV who's been coaching soccer since the age of 16. "We have the potential to win a section title. We first have to get through league. There are no weak opponents."