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CV girls have high expectations for 2017 campaign
Junior Lupita Becerra will play No. 1 singles for the Hawks this season. Becerra posted an 8-7 record at No. 2 singles her sophomore year. - photo by DALE BUTLER/The Courier

Central Valley's varsity girls tennis team overachieved in 2016.

Competing with a starting lineup featuring just three returners and nine newcomers, the Hawks remained in the hunt for a Sac-Joaquin Section playoff berth until the last day of the regular season.

Crosstown-rival Ceres High edged out Central Valley 5-4 for the Western Athletic Conference's third and final postseason spot.

"I'd be surprised if we didn't make the playoffs this year," Hawks head coach Mike Rodriguez said. "If you look at our lineup, we only lost two girls from last year's team. We got experience and depth."

Central Valley's top returning player is junior Lupita Becerra.

Becerra will fill the No. 1 singles slot in the Hawks' lineup.

Lupita posted an 8-7 record at No. 2 singles her sophomore year.

The first-team all-WAC selection won one of two matches while finishing in the top eight at the conference championships.

"She's pretty consistent," Rodriguez said. "She can move the ball around on the court. She hits a good lob ball."

Other key Hawk returnees include Gianna Arce (So.), Adriana Escobedo (Sr.), Sue Dhillon (Jr.), Mixtly Vega (Jr.), Abigail Martinez (Jr.), Elisabeth Valdez (Jr.), Daniela Yepez (Jr.), Jocelyn Rodriguez (Jr.) and Nayeli Castellanos (Sr.).

Arce, Escobedo, Dhillon, Vega, Martinez and Valdez will contribute at singles.

Yepez, Rodriguez and Castellanos are doubles players.

Becerra, Arce, Escobedo, Dhillon, Vega, Martinez, Valdez, Yepez, Rodriguez and Castellanos are all battle-tested.

"It makes coaching easier," coach Rodriguez said. "They got experience now. I don't have to start from square one."

Central Valley compiled a 7-8 record en route to a fourth-place finish in the WAC standings a year ago.

Los Banos (15-0) won the WAC title.

Patterson (10-5) and Ceres High (8-7) placed second and third, respectively.

Pacheco (4-11) and Livingston (1-14) finished fifth and sixth.

"We beat every team in league at least once, except for Los Banos," Mike Rodriguez said.

Central Valley has an all-time record of 7-16 versus Ceres High.

Winners of seven of the last eight meetings, the Hawks topped the Bulldogs twice by identical 5-4 scores last season.

"Our girls get a little more pumped up for it," coach Rodriguez said while talking about the CV-CHS rivalry. "It should be treated like any other match. You don't get any extra wins for beating Ceres High."

Central Valley will rely on an experienced group this fall as it seeks its third playoff appearance in four years. The Hawks amassed a 20-4 record in WAC play and secured back-to-back postseason berths from 2014-15.

"When you have that many girls coming back, you should be in the playoff chase," Mike Rodriguez said. "I expect us to finish in the top three in the WAC."