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Ceres High netters to play for Sac-Joaquin Section Division-III crown
Dawgs collect wins against Kimball, Oakdale in playoffs
Chase Harden contributed at No. 3 singles in Ceres Highs wins against visiting Kimball and Oakdale in the playoffs last week. - photo by DALE BUTLER/The Courier

Ceres High School's varsity boys tennis team moved one step closer to making history.

The Bulldogs, the top overall seed in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-III tournament, kept their perfect record intact with a 5-4 win over Valley Oak League runner-up Kimball in the semifinals on Monday in Ceres.

"We knew it was going to be a tough match," Ceres High head coach Bryan Harden said. "We've been trying to play them for several years. They've been a good team for a while."

Ceres High improved to 26-0 overall. The Bulldogs captured their fourth consecutive Western Athletic Conference title during the regular season.

Eight of Ceres High's nine starters are fourth-year players.

"We've played so long together," Bulldogs senior singles player Rene Cortes said. "We have a lot of talent and depth."

Experience-laden Ceres High won all three doubles and two of six singles matches versus the Jaguars.

Manuel Lozcano and Alex Torres defeated Kimball's Bert Yu and Paolo Acosta 7-5, 7-6 (7-1) in No. 3 doubles play.

"Everything has to fall just right," Harden said while talking about his team's 5-4 team victory. "It came down to No. 3 doubles. They clinched it. I'm really proud of them. They were both really nervous. They didn't play aggressive until the end."

Cortes defeated Ivan Acosta 6-4, 6-4 in No. 4 singles play.

"That was the biggest match of the day," Harden said. "That's not one we expected to get. Rene played smart and was patient. He did what I asked him to do."

Manny Jimenez and Dennis Phommalinh defeated Nick Nguyen and Erik Ruivivar 6-0, 6-2 in No. 1 doubles play.

Jorge Ruiz and Julian Rodriguez defeated Paul de Supinski and Pranav Nampoothiri 6-1, 6-1 in No. 2 doubles play.

Julio Ochoa defeated Logan Le 6-0, 6-1 in No. 2 singles play.

Nolan McCaig lost 5-7, 6-3, 6-1 to Garrett Chun in No. 1 singles play.

Chase Harden lost 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 to Nick Reilley in No. 3 singles play.

Jose Ortega lost 6-4, 6-2 to Josh Linsangan in No. 5 singles play.

Bruno de la Torre lost 6-1, 6-1 to Blake Howerton in No. 6 singles play.

The Bulldogs began their quest for a section crown on May 5.

Host Ceres High beat Oakdale 8-1 in the quarterfinals.
"I felt comfortable going into the match," coach Harden said. "I knew they would have a hard time matching up with us."

The Bulldogs won all three doubles and five of six singles matches against the third-place Mustangs of the VOL.

Jimenez and Phommalinh defeated Devin Odom and Mikey Baskind 7-5, 6-1 in No. 1 doubles play.

Ruiz and Rodriguez defeated Dustin Hoy and Dane Houskens 6-1, 6-1 in No. 2 doubles play.

Lozcano and Torres defeated Jacob Person and Tyler Ross 6-2, 6-4 in No. 3 doubles play.

McCaig defeated Oakdale's Hawkey Magnussen 6-0, 6-0 in No. 1 singles play.

Ochoa defeated Spencer Keyser 6-0, 6-0 in No. 2 singles play.

Harden defeated Octavio Padilla 6-2, 6-1 in No. 3 singles play.

Cortes defeated Zach Miller 6-3, 6-0 in No. 4 singles play.

Ortega defeated Daniel Lubeck 6-3, 6-3 in No. 5 singles play.

Bruno de la Torre lost 6-0, 4-6, 6-3 to Shane Baxter in No. 6 singles play.

Ceres High and VOL-champion Manteca (19-3) will face off in the section finals today at 3 p.m. in Ceres.

The Bulldogs placed second in the Division-II playoffs in 2013.

"I feel very fortunate to have another opportunity," coach Harden said. "That doesn't happen too often. It's going to be tough. We've beat everybody that's been put in front of us. Hopefully, we can get by them. Win or lose, we've had an awesome year."