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The Central Valley High School varsity boys soccer team had a subdued celebration after clinching a Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV playoff berth with a 7-0 victory over Weston Ranch on Tuesday, Oct. 23 in Ceres. There was no postgame ice water shower for head coach Omar Leon.

"I knew there was no doubt we could make the playoffs," said 2006 Valley Oak Leaue co-MVP/senior goalkeeper Eddy Salinas said. "We should have won league but didn't because of what happened."

The Hawks managed to secure the VOL's third and final postseason berth this year despite forfeiting their first three conference games for inadvertently using an ineligible player. Central Valley also had to deal with injuries and yellow-card accumulation suspensions.

"I think the loss to East Union was a good thing," Salinas said. "It brought the team together more."

The Hawks dropped a 3-2 decision to the Lancers a day after finding out they would have to forfeit a win over Sonora and ties against Oakdale and Manteca.

Central Valley regrouped following the setback by amassing eight wins, including six shutouts, and a tie. The Hawks outscored their opponents 30-3 during their nine-game unbeaten streak.

"Everybody stepped it up, especially the defense," Salinas said. Eddy praised Ricardo Reynoso, Diego Zepeda, Marco Rodriguez and Marvin Lopez for their sound play.

The Hawks qualified for the playoffs in just their second year of existence. Central Valley's success can be attributed to a host of things with senior leadership being at the top of the list.

"Our mentality is a lot different this year," Salinas said. "We got heart. Last year, we gave up a lot after falling behind."

Coach Leon placed an emphasis on unselfish play as well, which was evident during the Hawks' bludgeoning of Weston Ranch. Five different players scored, including Rodriguez (three), Sammy Saldate (one), Abimael Galindo (one), Jose Haro (one) and Jose Ramirez (one).

"We play as a group," Salinas said. "All of the other teams rely on one or two players. We're like a family. We're all cool with each other at school."

The Hawks wrapped up their VOL season on Thursday with a 3-0 home victory over crosstown rival Ceres High. Approximately 300 fans attended the game.

Central Valley will play against Pioneer Valley League champion El Dorado (9-2-1) in the opening round of the playoffs at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 6. The visiting Hawks have their sights set on making a deep run during the postseason.

"That's the goal," Salinas said.

Win or lose, the 2007 Hawks should be remembered for making history in dominant fashion. A year ago, Central Valley just missed the playoffs, getting edged out by Manteca via tiebreaker.