Competing in the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs for the first time, Central Valley High School's varsity girls soccer team drew top-overall seed East Union in the opening round.
The 16th-seeded Hawks lost 2-0 to the Valley Oak League champion Lancers in the Division-III tournament on May 5 in Manteca.
Ranked No. 2 in the state and section by MaxPreps, East Union has won 39 of its last 40 games and is unbeaten over the last two years.
The Lancers won the Division-IV section crown last spring.
"It took us about 30 minutes to get our bearings," Central Valley head coach Cyndi Meshach said. "We're not used to playing teams that are that intense. The VOL is a strong league. We made a game out of it. There were moments you could see they were frustrated. They couldn't penetrate our defense. They were still dominant."
Jenna Zuniga collected one goal and assist for the 21-0 Lancers, who blanked No. 3 Manteca 2-0 in the finals on May 16.
Goalkeeper Emely Lopez made eight saves for the Hawks, who posted a 9-7-2 overall record this season.
East Union tallied goals in the 17th and 19th minutes while building a 2-0 lead in the opening half.
Central Valley squandered an opportunity to cut the deficit to one goal midway through the second half. Freshman Laiza Quintero fired a penalty kick off the crossbar in the 64th minute.
"It could have changed everything," Meshach said.
Central Valley shut out East Union for the first 16 minutes of contest.
The Lancers failed to score a goal in the second half.
"It's fun to be able to compete at that level," Meshach said. "The level of play is so different. It was a great game. I'd really love to play more VOL teams in the preseason. East Union's talented. They're smart. They're constantly talking. They're No. 1 for a reason."
The Hawks gained confidence in defeat.
"I'm extremely pleased," Meshach said. "I know what my girls are capable of. They didn't surprise me. I think they surprised themselves."
Central Valley reached unprecedented heights this year by qualifying for the playoffs for the first time.
The Hawks placed third in the Western Athletic Conference standings (8-3-1).
Emely Amaya, Celeste Acebes, Daisy Ochoa, Lupe Garcia and Alexis Marin, Central Valley's five seniors, will be lost to graduation.
"I love to coach," Meshach said. "I have fun every year. This year was exceptionally fun. They're just into soccer. I never heard them talk about prom at practice. They came to practice to practice. They didn't come to practice to socialize. I'm truly hoping the girls come back next year and we can move even further."