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Injuries sideline CHS tennis star
Bulldog standout Julio Ochoa was slowed by shoulder and elbow injuries during his junior year. - photo by DALE BUTLER/The Courier

Ceres High varsity boys junior tennis standout Julio Ochoa's right shoulder and elbow started bothering him while competing at the California Classic in Fresno in March.

"A week after that tournament, I went to the doctor," Ochoa stated. "He said I have to stop playing for a couple months after the season. That's going to be the hardest part about this. Summer is when I train the hardest."

Ochoa was limited to just five singles matches during Western Athletic Conference play due to injury.

Julio sat out the 2014 WAC singles tournament earlier this month because he didn't want to risk further damage to his rotator cuff. Ochoa would have in all likelihood won his third straight conference championship had he participated.

"It would have been nice to do it all four years," said Julio, who captured conference titles the previous two seasons. "But right now, I have to take care of myself. I didn't want to hurt myself more. I have to put my safety first. If I go hard right now, it might ruin it forever."

"I feel really bad for him," Bulldogs head coach Bryan Harden said. "Julio is a good kid. I didn't tell him what to do. That was his decision. He did what's best for him. I don't want him to not be able to play college tennis. That's his passion."

Julio competed in the 2014 WAC doubles tournament.

Seeded first, Ochoa and Chase Harden turned in a near-perfect performance while capturing the WAC title on May 2 at Modesto's Del Rio Golf and Country Club.

Ochoa and Harden defeated Central Catholic's second-seeded doubles tandem of Chris Huber and Conor Fenton 6-0, 6-2 in the finals.

"I knew if I dropped out of singles I could still win a title," Ochoa said. "You only have to hit half the time for doubles. It's not about strength but placement."

Ochoa and Ceres High freshman Nolan McCaig shared the WAC's Most Valuable Player award this season.

Nolan posted a 13-0 record and placed first at the conference tournament.

McCaig defeated Bulldog teammate Alick Liang 6-3, 6-4 for the singles crown.

Julio, 5-0 in WAC play, was named league MVP for the third year in a row. Older sister Marifer Ochoa was a three-time recipient of the conference's Most Valuable Player award.

"I'm happy for him (McCaig)," Julio said. "We've developed a good friendship already. I don't know what it would be like to play him. He's more fit and can reach more balls from what I've seen. We've both played a lot of years. He has (high-school) match experience now."

Ochoa hoped to win four WAC singles titles during his prep tennis career at Ceres High. Already considered one of the Bulldogs' greatest players, Julio will look to add to his legacy next year.

Ochoa and Nolan could face off in the finals of the WAC singles tournament.

"That's what I'd predict," Julio said. "But anything can happen when somebody plays good."

Ochoa will not be permitted to play tennis during the offseason. He usually spends a considerable amount of time working on his game at the Modesto Racket Club.

"It's frustrating," he said. "I'm used to going out and practicing a lot. That's going to be the hardest part about this. Summer is when I train the hardest. I'm doing a lot of injury prevention right now, exercises to strengthen the vulnerable parts. It's made me more patient."