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Central Valley High School's Paul Sidhu elevated his game at the 2008 Valley Oak League varsity boys singles tennis championships.

He surprisingly made it all the way to the quarterfinals, where he lost 6-3, 6-2 to Manteca's Yassen Aniss.

Sidhu's convinced he'll do even better this year.

"If I work hard enough, I think I can make it to the finals," the senior said.

Added Hawks head coach Roland Calagos: "He's on the right path to gaining that. He's stronger mentally and physically, and he has more patience. All the kids look up to him."

Sidhu joined Central Valley's tennis team during his freshman year. He spent his first season at No. 2 doubles. Paul played No. 2 singles last year and filled the No. 3 slot in 2007.

Sidhu will occupy the top position in the Hawks' lineup this season. He welcomes the challenge of competing against the league's best in Aniss, Ceres High's Luis Ochoa and Sonora's Erik Segerstrom.

"It's funner because guys actually push you harder," he said.

Paul played basketball in the winter and ran cross country in the fall.

"I got faster and more endurance because of that," he said.

"He's in pretty good condition," Calagos said.

Sidhu also changed his style of play. His strategy will include taking more chances and avoiding long rallies.

"I'm going to be more aggressive this year," Sidhu said. "Last year, I'd patty-cake it. I never went to the net."

Central Valley tied for fifth place with Weston Ranch at 5-9 in the VOL standings last season. The Hawks more than doubled their victory total for the previous two campaigns.

Sidhu would like to see this year's team compile at least a .500 record in conference play.

"It's possible," he said.

CHS vying for another winning season

Ceres High's varsity boys tennis team has qualified for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II Playoffs and placed second in the Valley Oak League the past two years.

The Bulldogs should be just as strong again this season thanks to their experience-laden lineup.

Ceres High returns five players from the 2008 squad, including juniors Luis Ochoa, Harman Bains, Wilson Liang and Raul Massie, and senior Jose Cortes.

"The kids know what I expect of them," Bulldogs head coach Brian de la Porte said. "Obviously, our goal is to win the (conference) championship and make the playoffs."

Ochoa, a junior and Ceres High's No. 1 singles player, sat out most of last season due to academic ineligibility. He compiled a 30-6 record and earned first-team, VOL honors as a freshman.

"The thing I like about Luis is his work ethic," de la Porte said. "The drive the kid has to be successful in tennis is huge. He wants to get better everyday. I don't see anyone beating him if he plays like he can."

Originally slated to play No. 1 doubles a season ago, Bains moved to No. 3 singles after Ochoa was lost for the year. Harman won four of his final five matches, including a 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 contest-clinching victory against Oakdale.