AT A GLANCE
SJS Division III playoffs
• WHO: No. 13 East Union vs. No. 4 Central Valley
• WHEN: Today, 3 p.m.
• WHERE: Central Valley, Ceres
• ADMISSION: $6 adults, $4 students, Children 5-under are free
Victor Polanco has fond memories of the Central Valley High soccer field.
That was where he, alongside fellow co-head coach Clarence Goes, helped lead East Union to a 5-2 upset in the semifinal round of the 2011 Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV playoffs. The Lancers went on to drop a 2-0 loss to powerhouse Vista del Lago in their first-ever section final.
With Goes since retired, Polanco returns to the Ceres campus today and brings an entirely new team with him. This year’s group is competing in its first postseason match after East Union missed out the past two years.
Central Valley (13-1-8) enters the first-round contest as the No. 4 seed in the 16-team Division-III bracket, while visiting East Union (10-4-3) is 13th. The game is scheduled to start at 3 p.m.
“Of course it’s going to be a different game than 2011,” Polanco said. “(East Union’s current players) don’t know the field, so we practiced at Northgate (Park on Monday) because the field there is similar. We play better away than at home anyway, so the kids are ready for the game.”
Central Valley had its run of six straight Western Athletic Conference titles end after finishing 7-0-5 in league. And that’s despite defeating WAC champion Patterson (16-4) twice with 2-1 scores.
The Hawks may lack the goal-scoring standouts of years past — three players lead the way with eight goals each, according to MaxPreps — but they remain stout on defense. Their 3-3 loss to Los Banos to end the regular season marked the first time in 2014 that they have given up more than two goals in a game. Central Valley’s lone loss was to Division II No. 6 seed Merced, which prevailed 2-0 in their Sept. 9 nonleague showdown.
“I haven’t seen this group but they have been a strong team for many years,” Polanco said. “Right now I don’t want to worry too much about what they do, I’m thinking more about what we’re going to do.”
The Lancers are going to remain true to themselves, he said.
They rely on speed and quick touches to free up the likes of Gerardo Romero (14 goals, six assists in league) on the attacking third, where East Union plays up to three forwards. Polanco has enough faith in his two-headed monster at goal — 6-foot-1 sophomore Jose Modesto and senior Bryce Lew — and veteran defense to take risks.
Don’t expect East Union to pack in the defense for 100 minutes with hopes of deciding it in a shootout.
“We’re not going for PKs (penalty kicks), we’re looking to win in regular time,” Polanco said. “It’s not my style.”
Although East Union’s VOL finale against rival Manteca ended in a 1-1 tie, which was all the Lancers needed to advance, Polanco insists they were playing for the win. Regardless of the result, he believes the game itself, which had a postseason feel to it, was exactly what his young team needed.
“The last game we played against Manteca is going to help us,” Polanco said. “One thing about Central Valley is they’re always physical, just like Manteca is. It was a good game for us going into the playoffs.”