Central Valley High School’s boys soccer program has accomplished a lot during its 15-year history.
Winning a Sac-Joaquin Section blue championship banner has remained elusive as the Hawks have lost seven times in the finals.
“I think we can make a deep run in the playoffs and possibly win it,” Central Valley third-year head coach Horatio Garcia said. “That’s the goal. That’s everyone’s objective. It would mean a lot to every single player.”
The Hawks return nine players from last year’s team, including Eberardo Huaracha (Sr.), Jose Mendoza (Sr.), Adan Mercado (Sr.), Oscar Mercado (Sr.), Carlos Ochoa (Sr.), Alberto Sarabia (Sr.), Jose Cazares (Jr.), Alexis Cervantes (Jr.) and Diego Covarrubias (Jr.).
Central Valley has 17 newcomers in Osmar Ascencio (Sr.), Nicolas Gil (Sr.), Salvador Vera (Sr.), Emmanuel Villalon (Sr.), Julio Larranaga (Jr.), Victor Macias (Jr.), Carlos Romero (Jr.), Wasu Yang (Jr.), Gilbert Zamora III (Jr.), Alejandro Garcia (So.), Artemio Ortiz (So.), Enrique Lopez (So.), Anantah Sivongxay (So.), Tahte Yang (So.), Ariano Delgado (Fr.), Ivan Cervantes (Fr.) and Osvaldo Cisneros (Fr.).
Ochoa and Cazares were both named to the Central California Conference Team a season ago.
Cazares had two goals and five assists.
Ochoa had one goal and one assist.
Huaracha was named to the CCC Second Team.
He had two goals and four assists.
Sarabia had seven goals and four assists.
Alexis Cervantes had six goals and one assist.
Mendoza had four goals and one assist.
Adan Mercado had three goals and four assists.
Covarrubias had two assists.
The Hawks lost nine players to graduation, including starters Heriberto Paz, Gael Navarro, Alex Bautista, Fernando Cano and Isaiah Urrutia.
Cano was voted the Central California Conference’s Offensive Player of the Year. He led Central Valley with 20 goals.
Paz was selected to the CCC Second Team. He had one goal and one assist.
Zamora III and Larranaga both transferred from crosstown-rival Ceres High.
Ascencio attended Johansen last school year.
Zamora III, Larranaga and Ascencio will be eligible to play the first week of January.
Zamora III was named to the Western Athletic Conference Second Team as a sophomore. He collected seven goals and seven assists.
Huaracha, Mercado and Alexis Cervantes have been named team captains for this season.
“With all due respect to the other teams I’ve coached, this team is the strongest team I’ve coached so far,” Garcia said. “We have depth. We have two or three players per position that could start. I believe every single player will contribute to the team. Everyone will get a chance to play and show what they got.”
Central Valley’s conference schedule features matches against Patterson, Atwater, Buhach Colony, Merced, Golden Valley and El Capitan.
The top three teams in the CCC qualify for the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs.
The Hawks went 18-7-2, finished second in the league standings (9-3-0) and placed in the top 4 in the Division-II tournament this past winter.
Fourth-seeded Central Valley battled back from a two-goals-to-none deficit before losing 3-2 to top-seeded Granite Bay in the semifinals.
Central Valley edged fifth-seeded Lodi 1-0 in the quarterfinals and 13th-seeded Woodcreek 5-4 in a penalty-kick shootout in the opening round.
“I don’t think we surprised anyone base on the history of the program and how successful we’ve been in the past,” Garcia said. “The experience is going to help us this upcoming year.”
Omar Leon, Garcia’ predecessor, led the Hawks to eight conference titles, seven appearances in the section finals and to the playoffs every season during his 12-year tenure.
“I have very high expectations,” Garcia said. “Our objective is to win league and make a run for the section title. It’s a long season. We have to continue to work hard.”