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CV boys to rely on experience
Central Valleys boys tennis program has a wealth of experience on its roster. Twelve players return from 2016, including Ruben Morales. - photo by DALE BUTLER/Courier photo

Central Valley's varsity boys tennis program made history by securing its first-ever Sac-Joaquin Section playoff berth in 2015.

The Hawks returned to the postseason in 2016.

Central Valley had its streaks of consecutive playoff appearances snapped at two years last spring.

"If all goes well, we should be in the mix for a playoff spot this year," Hawks head coach Mike Rodriguez said. "It helps having experience. But we'll be playing against experienced players as well. There's going to be a lot of close matches."

Central Valley returns a dozen players from a season ago, including Ruben Morales (Sr.), Manuel Lazcano (Sr.), Henry Garcia (Sr.), Juan Zaragoza (So.), Rogelio Perez (So.), Roman Ortiz (Sr.), Max Sanchez (So.), Jesus Cuevas (Sr.), Ivan Jimenez (Jr.), Adrian Gomez (So.), Gurshan Chahal (Sr.) and Ralph Afortunado (Sr.).

Morales, Lazcano, Garcia, Zaragoza, Perez and Ortiz are singles players.

Sanchez and Cuevas will split playing time at singles and doubles.

Jimenez, Gomez, Chahal and Afortunado will contribute at doubles.

"We basically have everyone back," Rodriguez said. "We're going to try to implement a different style of play. We're going to be a little more aggressive."

Morales was selected to the WAC First Team as a junior.

He posted a 4-8 record while playing No. 1 singles for the Hawks.

"It's a tough spot to play in," Rodriguez said. "He'll be competitive. He has a lot of talent. He can get to a lot of balls because he's tall and long. He's got a really good backhand. It would really benefit him more if he got to the net."

Lazcano, Central Valley's No. 2 singles player, earned second-team all-conference honors.

"He's pretty competitive," Rodriguez said. "He's consistent. He has a decent net game. He should have another solid year."

Ruben and Manuel advanced to the finals while teaming up for the first time at the 2016 Western Athletic Conference Doubles Championships.

Morales and Lazano made history by becoming the first duo from Central Valley to qualify for the section tournament.

"They got the most experience," Rodriguez said. "They're the two best players we have out there."

The top three teams in the WAC qualify for the playoffs.

Central Valley placed fifth in the conference standings (4-8) last season.

"I wouldn't be surprised if we made playoffs," Rodriguez said. "We have an experienced group. We have a ton of potential."

Central Valley has an all-time record of 0-20 versus crosstown-rival Ceres High.

The two teams will face off three times in WAC play this year.

"They have the mental edge on our guys since we've never beaten them," Rodriguez said. "It's going to happen eventually. Just don't know when it's going to be."

Central Valley will try to notch its third playoff berth in four years this spring.

The Hawks have amassed a 23-14 record against WAC competition since 2014.

"When I first started here, we weren't winning any matches," Rodriguez said. "I wasn't sure how long it was going to take to build a program. Things changed for the better when I got a group of guys to stick around for three to four years. We've been pretty consistent."