Competing in the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs for just the second time in its 10-year history, Central Valley High School's varsity girls soccer program reached new heights last week by finishing in the top eight in the Division-III bracket.
"I knew we'd have a great chance at being a strong team," said Evelyn Andrade, a third-year player with the Hawks. "We worked really hard. We had such a strong bond on and off the field. The chemistry was just there."
The Hawks won one of their two playoff games.
Fifth-seeded Central Valley lost 3-0 to No. 4 Vista del Lago in the quarterfinals on Thursday in Folsom.
Sophomore Emely Lopez and senior Stephanie Lopez each tallied four saves while splitting playing time at goalkeeper for the Hawks, who had their nine-game winning streak snapped by the Eagles.
Ellyse Magnani, Mekaylla White and Jazzlyn Venkataya all scored once for Capital Athletic League runner-up Vista del Lago, which improved to 16-4-2 on the year.
Michaela Mayer dished out two assists.
Courtney Carlson and Audrey Heath both collected one assist.
The Western Athletic Conference champion Hawks mustered just two shots on goal during the course of the game.
Central Valley overcame a slow start on their way to pulling away for a 4-2 win over No. 12 El Camino in the first round on May 10 in Ceres.
The Hawks earned their first-ever playoff victory.
Freshman Yesenia Zuniga and sophomore Laiza Quintero both scored twice for Central Valley.
Andrade and sophomore Mariana Garibay chipped in with one assist apiece.
Emely Lopez totaled nine saves.
The Hawks outscored the Eagles 3-1 in the second half.
El Camino compiled a 6-11-3 overall record.
The Eagles placed fourth in the CAL.
Central Valley enjoyed its best season to date this spring by claiming its first conference title and participating in the playoffs for the second consecutive year.
The Hawks won 19 of 21 games and captured the Western Athletic Conference crown with a near-perfect 11-1-0 mark.
Central Valley reeled off 10 straight victories prior to losing 2-1 to WAC runner-up El Capitan. The Hawks avenged the loss with a 2-0 shutout.
Central Valley topped Ripon, Johansen and Linden en route to winning the title at its home tournament for the first time. "I'm not surprised," Zuniga said. "I had an idea we would get this far. Our chemistry got stronger as we hung out off the field. Most of us have been playing together since we were young. We communicate really well. We're all really competitive."
Central Valley could return as many as 16 players from this year's team next season, including Zuniga, Garibay, Emely Lopez, Jocelyn Lopez, Abigail Martinez, Mixtly Vega, Jacquelyn Sanchez, Trinity Avila, Yesinia Bernal, Victoria Castillo, Jacquelynn Chavez, Blanca Espinoza, Andrea Ornelas, Laiza Quintero, Jocelyn Rodriguez and Sarah Silva. Andrade, Stephanie Lopez, Jackie Martinez and Nicole Munoz will be lost to graduation.
Central Valley will try to defend its WAC championship and qualify for the postseason for the third year in a row during the 2016-17 school year.
"It's going to get better," Andrade said. "They're such a young group. They have skill and talent."