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Ceres High's success on courts a true team effort
Ceres High School's varsity girls tennis team had a memorable 2008 season.

The Bulldogs went 13-3 overall, tied for first place in the VOL standings with Oakdale (12-2) and participated in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II playoffs for the second consecutive year.

This year's group is currently in the midst of one of the most dominant runs in program history.

Ceres High moved to 13-0 in the conference standings after collecting wins against Sierra, Weston Ranch and Central Valley.

"We have positive momentum right now," Bulldogs first-year assistant coach Derek Cowell said.

McKenzy Harden and Angie Prak, Ceres High's top singles player, have yet to lose a league match.

The fourth-year members have identical 26-0 records.

Harden is vying for her third straight perfect season.

McKenzy enjoys seeing her teammates succeed.

"It makes it extra special when the team wins," she said. "That (winning every match) would be so amazing. It could definitely happen. We deserve it because we work really hard. If we get past Oakdale, we'll be fine."

Prak replaced 2008 VOL third-place medalist Venus Lopez, who decided to focus on academics. Angie compiled a 20-9 record at No. 3 singles in 2008.

"I'm more focused and my serving is getting better," Prak said. "I have a lot of support from my coaches."

Said Bulldogs head coach Bryan Harden: "She's kicked it up a notch this year."

The Bulldogs have also received solid contributions from their third singles player and two doubles teams.

Karinna Magana has a respectable 21-7 mark.

Ryan Norton and Kaycee Creek, and Rachel Stump and Christin Ornells have amassed records of 14-5 and 13-6, respectively.

Ceres High upped its all-time record to 8-0 against crosstown rival Central Valley last week.

The Bulldogs took four of five matches from the Hawks (2-11 VOL).

Harden defeated Jessica Rodriguez (6-0, 6-0).

Prak defeated Katie Avila (6-1, 6-1).

Magana didn't play because of a knee injury. Her replacement, Jessica Vega, lost to Lizette Covarrubias (6-4, 7-6).

Norton and Creek defeated Mikayla Belcher and Taylor Rogers (6-2, 6-0).

Stump and Ornells defeated Christina Crum and Julie Avila (6-1, 6-0).

McKenzy, Angie and Co. spent valuable bonding time with each other in the Fresno area earlier this year when they participated in the California High School Classic.

Ceres High placed first in its quadrant with a 3-0 record.

Bulldog players customized tie-dyed t-shirts during downtime at the Holiday Inn.

"We're having a lot of fun," Prak said. "This year, there's less stress on everyone."

"That was the nudge of the snowball," Bryan said. "It exposed them to a lot of different levels of play."

Derek, Bryan's cousin, has also brought new life to the program.

He drives the girls to matches. He also helps out at practices.

"The kids absolutely love him," coach Harden said. "They work hard for him."

Ceres High has increased its VOL win total in each of the last three seasons.

The Bulldogs have won 36 of 41 conference matches since finishing in a tie for fourth place with Sierra at 7-7 in 2006.

"The girls refuse to lose," Bryan said.

Added Derek: "They're just a blessed team right now. And they work hard."