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CHS varsity boys tennis team looking to continue dominance on courts
Ceres High varsity boys tennis star Julio Ochoa will be vying for his third straight Western Athletic Conference singles title. Ochoa compiled a near-perfect 27-1 record during his sophomore year. - photo by DALE BUTLER/The Courier

Ceres High School's varsity boys tennis team enjoyed its most successful season to date in 2013.

The Bulldogs compiled an impressive 30-2 overall record, brought home a second-place trophy from the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-II Tournament, captured their second consecutive Western Athletic Conference title (12-0) and qualified for the playoffs for the fourth year in a row.

Julio Ochoa reeled off 27 straight wins before tasting defeat. Ochoa won his second straight WAC singles crown and MVP award.

Alick Liang and Gurman Bains reached the pinnacle of their sport by finishing first among 15 doubles teams at the section finals. Liang and Bains also placed first at the WAC Championships.

"It's a tough act to follow," said Ceres High head coach Bryan Harden, whose program had its 24-match winning streak snapped in the section finals. "Everybody knows what we're striving for. We have the bulk of our team back. We've improved at the top. I'd be really disappointed if we didn't win it (league) again."

Julio Ochoa (Jr.), Nolan McCaig (Fr.), Alick Liang (Sr.), Chase Harden (Jr.), Rene Cortes (Jr.), Juan Jimenez (Jr.), Shane Kumar (Sr.), Heath Adrian (Sr.) and Dennis Phommalinh (Jr.) will fill key roles while trying to lead the Bulldogs to their third straight WAC title and fifth consecutive postseason appearance.

Jordan Mey (Sr.), Jorge Ruiz (Jr.), Julian Rodriguez (Jr.) and Bruno de la Torre (So.) will also contribute.

"Our first goal is to win league," coach Harden said. "Then we'll see what happens in the playoffs. Everything has to line up for teams like ours. You have to play well and be injury free. There's going to be more pressure on the singles players because we don't have as much depth at doubles."

Ochoa had a near-perfect sophomore season with the Bulldogs. Julio had a 27-1 overall record, including perfect 14-0 mark in WAC play.

He matched older brother Luis' league title total and ascended to top-three status in program history this past season.

Older sister Marifer won her second conference championship in the fall.

"If you're going to rank someone, you do it when they're done," Bryan Harden said. "Julio's only a junior. He's got every shot. That's what separates him from everyone else. The beauty of this year is I have a person who is going to push him. Nolan is quick, aggressive and consistent. He can play multiple styles. Both of his parents are teaching pros. He's going to be so much better than everyone else he plays. I'd be shocked if they (Ochoa and McCaig) didn't go 1-2 in league."

Liang and Harden earned first-team, all-conference honors last year.

Alick finished in the top four at the WAC singles tournament. He posted a 13-1 record in league play.

Chase won 11 of his 12 matches.

Cortes, Kumar, Jimenez, Adrian and Phommalinh were selected to the WAC Second Team.

Rene had a 10-0 record at No. 5 singles.

Shane and Juan teamed up to win all 11 of their matches at No. 2 doubles.

Heath and Dennis compiled a 10-0 record at No. 3 doubles.

Jordan, an honorable-mention pick as a reserve singles player, was 6-0.

The top three teams in the WAC advance to the postseason.

Ceres High finished ahead of Patterson (10-2), Livingston (7-5), Central Catholic (6-6), Los Banos (3-9), Pacheco (2-10) and Central Valley (2-10) in 2013.

The Bulldogs improved their head-to-head record versus the crosstown Hawks to 14-0.

Ceres High has a 19-match unbeaten streak in WAC action dating back to the 2012 season.

"Sometimes you get bored if you're not getting challenged," said Bryan, whose team's claimed four league titles the past five seasons. "I do my best to not let them think that way. Hopefully, we can improve on last year. It's going to be tough."