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Central girls soccer looks to make history in the Valley

Spartans set sights on being first Imperial Valley DIII team to advance to CIF San Diego semi-finals and beyond

EL CENTRO, Calif. ( KYMA, KECY-TV ) - The Central Spartans girls soccer team finished the regular season 16-1-1 and made history by claiming their fifth straight Imperial Valley League title. Due to the pandemic, the success this year came without any added advantages, no club players were added to any team in the Valley. Every team basically started from scratch.

"It was very challenging," Central Head Coach Ramon Lopez said. "We're happy with the outcome and to see the hard work payoff."

When it comes to girls soccer in the Valley, Central is viewed as the gold standard, the team to beat and the team with a constant target on their back.

"Whenever you put on the Central shirt there's always a lot more pressure on you because you're expected to win every year," Lopez said. "So, we try to stay as focused as possible in order to try to meet our goal every season."

The goal? Winning a state championship. Central is the only girls soccer Division III team in the Imperial Valley. That means there is not much room for error when it comes to playoff time versus teams from the San Diego area. Under California's ranking system and Central constantly playing teams in a division below them, the pressure to win is always high.

"In the past, every season that we have made it to the CIF, at the end of every game when we've been eliminated, I get the goosebumps," Lopez said. "I say, what else do I need to do to overcome that challenge? To get over the next bump? This year, even with my freshman girls, it seems like the momentum is there, the excitement is there, they have bonded so well together."

Lopez has led the Spartans as head coach for the past 18 years. This season, the Spartans are the #3 seed in Division III, the second highest seed in school history. Lopez says almost a decade ago the Spartans claimed a #1 seed but were bounced in the quarterfinal round to the eventual champions. Central has never advanced past the quarterfinal round and Lopez feels this year could be the year the Spartans make school and valley history.

"One of our motivations is to break that barrier," Lopez said. "To be the first team to make it to the next level. We talk about it and try to motivate the team. Look at what you are able to do, not only be the first girls soccer team in the Imperial Valley to win CIF, but, also the first to advance to the next round. They're motivated and ready to go."

Central will host Oceanside on Friday evening at 5:00 p.m. at Central High School.

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Scott Gross

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