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New year for netters but same goals
Ceres High School's varsity girls tennis program had a memorable final season in the Valley Oak League.

The Bulldogs defended their team title, and claimed the individual singles championship and qualified for the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs for the third year in a row in 2009.

Ceres High's dominance has led to an increase in participation in the sport.

"I definitely think it's helped," head coach Bryan Harden said.

The Bulldogs will strive for continued success this season after compiling a program-best 20-5 overall record and finishing 15-1 in conference play.

Ceres High will move forward without McKenzy Harden, Angie Prak, Karinna Magana and Rachel Stump. The Bulldogs' No. 1, 2, 3 and 7 players from a season ago graduated in June.

McKenzy won her third straight conference crown last fall. She had a career record of 161-9. She reeled off 97 consecutive wins in league.

"It's not going to be easy to replace those girls," Harden said. "Others are just going to have to step up. If we perform to the best of our ability, we can still make the playoffs. That's our goal."

Ceres High brings back just two starters, Kaycee Creek (junior) and Christin Ornells (junior).

Other returners are Kelly Gallagher (senior), Myranda Price (senior), Ashton Frampton (junior), Viridiana Arroyo (junior), Kim Ochoa (sophomore), Kiran Kainth (sophomore) and Lizzy Magana (sophomore).

The Bulldogs have a host of new players, including Ashley Thiner (senior), Kassandra Carrillo (junior), Alexis Cummings (junior), Tori Gunzenhauser (junior), Bethany Mazza (junior), Jannely Villegas (junior). Manpreet Bahia (sophomore), Cinthya Brito (freshman), Manmeet Dhami (freshman), Kaylee Donovan (freshman), Navmeet Grewal (freshman) and Marifer Ochoa (freshman).

Luis Ochoa, Marifer's older brother, won his second straight VOL singles championship last spring. She has the potential to be just as good.

"She's a heck of a player already," Harden said. "Their family lives at the gym. That's all they do. They don't have any other interests."

Kaylee, the stepdaughter of former Ceres High tennis coach and star Garrett Deering, will also be a major contributor.

Kassandra was sidelined with a shoulder injury last season.

The Bulldogs' starting lineup could change weekly.

"It's wide open," Harden said.

A work in progress

Central Valley High School's varsity girls tennis program will strive for improvement in 2010.

"Skill-level, we're starting from scratch," head coach Mike Rodriguez said. "We don't have a lot of experience. It's a good thing. We want to build for the future."

The Hawks return just several starters from last year's 2-14 team, including senior Lizette Covarrubias, and sophomores Jasmine Martinez and Julie Avila. Covarrubias, Martinez and Avila played doubles a season ago.

Jessica Rodriguez, Central Valley's top singles player, graduated. She compiled a 26-8 record.

Elizabeth Amaya (senior), Cinthia Ramos (senior), Victoria Ochoa (senior), Crystal Guzman (sophomore) and Dominique Germann (sophomore) are newcomers.

"The younger girls have some potential," Rodriguez said.

New competition

Both teams had to expand their rosters because more players are used during league matches. The Bulldogs and Hawks are members of the Western Athletic Conference, which utilizes a six-singles, three-doubles format. The Valley Oak League, Ceres High's and Central Valley's home from 2006-09, uses a 3-2 format.

"Depth will be important," Harden said.

Ceres High and Central Valley will face off twice this year. The Bulldogs and Hawks will also compete against Central Catholic, Livingston, Patterson, Los Banos and Pacheco.

"Los Banos is going to be the team to beat," Harden said.

"It will be interesting to play new teams and see what their levels are like," Rodriguez said.

Ups and downs

The Bulldogs have won three league titles and qualified for the playoffs four times since 2003.

The Hawks have never beaten Ceres High or compiled a .500 or better record. Central Valley's accumulated 13 wins and 57 losses under the direction of five different head coaches during its six-year history.

"As far as establishing a winning program, it's just going to take time," Rodriguez said. "We're going to have to get kids who stick it out for three to four years. You can't have constant changing every year. I was an athlete in the past. I hate losing. I'm very competitive."

Said Harden: "We've been fortunate."