A four-year standout in high school, McKenzy Harden couldn't pass up the opportunity to continue her tennis career at nearby Cal State Stanislaus.
Family and friends didn't have to travel far to watch her compete for the Lady Warriors.
Harden wrapped up her career with Stanislaus in April.
She was the lone senior on the team.
"I'm very happy with how I performed," McKenzy said. "I improved a lot, more than I expected. And I took on a leadership role as a team captain. I'm a firm believer in everything happens for a reason. I got to play something I love at a high level. I really enjoyed the experience."
Harden posted a 7-13 record while splitting time at No. 1, 2 and 3 singles this past season.
McKenzy was also a member of the Warriors' No. 1 doubles team. Harden, who partnered with three different players, had a 7-14 overall mark.
Father/longtime Ceres High tennis coach Bryan Harden introduced McKenzy to the sport at the age of seven. She started competing three years later.
"I enjoy the competitive aspect of it," Harden said. "It's one of the hardest sports to play in my opinion. It's not just physical. It's mental."
Harden had a combined record of 58-90 during her four-year career with the Warriors.
McKenzy finished 22-50 in singles play.
She went 36-40 in doubles play.
Harden's teams had a combined record of 22-37.
McKenzy helped lead the Warriors to a 9-4 overall record and 33rd-place finish in the NCAA Division II Women's Tennis Rankings her sophomore year.
Harden compiled a 7-7 record in the Warriors' No. 5 singles slot. She had a combined record of 8-6 while teaming up with Heather Cotter and Jessica Stokes at No. 3 doubles.
"We almost made it to Regionals," McKenzy said.
Harden and Davina Meza knocked off doubles teams from Division-I UC Davis and UOP in 2013.
McKenzy competed for the final time at the college level on April 19.
Harden and visiting Cal State Stanislaus fell 9-0 to 20th-ranked Cal State L.A.
She lost 6-1, 6-2 to Sydney Postal in No. 3 singles play.
Harden and Jessica Laurie lost 8-3 to Postal and Leora Hemmerich in No. 1 doubles play.
"I don't think I can stop playing tennis," Harden said. "It would be tough, especially being around it all the time. I've been working at a tennis club in Modesto since my sophomore year of high school. I plan to continue competing in tournaments in the future."
McKenzy will also focus on dancing, which she stopped doing after joining the Stanislaus women's tennis team.
A former member of Modesto Academy of Dance, Harden plans to try out for the Dallas Cowboys cheerleading team next spring.
"It's something I've always wanted to do," she said. "I'm getting ready for that."
McKenzy starting taking dance lessons at the age of three.
Harden will graduate from Stanislaus in December. The Kinesiology major currently has a cumulative GPA of 3.8.
She volunteers at Turlock's Emanuel Hospital.
"It's one of the most difficult things I've done in my life, trying to balance everything," Harden said while talking about being a student-athlete at the college level. "You don't get enough sleep. You're stressed out all the time. It's mentally, physically and emotionally exhausting. I wish I could live it all over again, even the hard times. I can't believe it's over. It seems so unreal. It went by so fast. I'm going to further my education. Regardless of what I do, it's going to be in the medical field."
Harden re-wrote the record books while starring at No. 1 singles during her freshman, sophomore, junior and senior years at Ceres High.
She compiled a 161-9 record, won three Valley Oak League titles and MVP awards, and secured four playoff berths. Her teams captured back-to-back conference titles and made three straight postseason appearances. McKenzy won 97 straight VOL matches in a three-year span.