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Soccer season Preview
The Ceres High varsity girls tennis team returns the Valley Oak League's top singles players in reigning champion McKenzy Harden.

Harden did the expected as a junior by compiling a perfect 32-0 record.

"McKenzy is head and shoulders above everyone else when it comes to focusing for a long period of time," head coach Bryan Harden said.

McKenzy successfully defended her VOL title in 2008. For the second straight year, she won all of her conference matches and was voted MVP. Will the future Ceres High Athletic Hall of Fame inductee wrap up her tennis career with another undefeated season?

"That would be awesome," Bryan said. "No one has any clue how hard McKenzy works. She's always looking to get better."

The Bulldogs shared the VOL title with Oakdale, qualified for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II Playoffs for the third consecutive year and posted a 13-3 overall record a season ago thanks in large part to the consistent play of Harden. McKenzy had a strong supporting cast as well. Angie Prak, Ryan Norton, Kaycee Creek, Rachel Stump and Karina Magana have all returned to the team. Venus Lopez, the third best player in the VOL last season, opted not to play this year to focus on academics.

"I'm expecting to be right there (top of the VOL standings) again," Bryan said. "I'll be upset if we're not. We're going to fight for everything. We're not going to lay down."

Ceres High's projected lineup consists of three singles players, Harden, Prak and Magana, and two doubles teams, Norton and Creek, and Rachel Stump and Christin Ornells. Jessica Vega and Kelly Gallagher could also factor in the mix.

Creek replaces Morgan Ogden, who opted to join the cheerleading squad this fall. Kaycee and Ryan played softball together in the spring and summer.

"They're both athletic and aggressive," Bryan said.

Prak was named to the VOL second team as a junior. She compiled a 20-9 record while playing No. 3 singles for the Bulldogs.

Veteran Hawk

Jessica Rodriguez returns for her fourth season of varsity girls tennis with Central Valley High School.

"I've improved a lot since my freshman year," she said. "I went from not being in the top seven to right up there. I feel like I'm going to do well this year."

Rodriguez advanced to quarterfinals of both the Valley Oak League singles and doubles tournaments as a junior.

Jessica won two of three singles matches on her way to a top eight finish. She beat Manteca's Morgan Salsedo (8-2) and Sonora's Sofie Segerstrom (9-7). Rodriguez lost to Ceres High's Venus Lopez (8-5).

Rodriguez and Anna Polovin posted victories over East Union's Kyrie Belme and Megan McClary (8-2) and Ceres High's Natalie Flores and Kaycee Creek (8-1). They lost to eventual champions Rachel Shelton and Koko Ankrom of Sonora (8-1) in the semifinals.

"I love everything about it (tennis)," Rodriguez said. The speed. The hitting. It's just fun."

"She's definitely our team leader," first-year head coach Greg Hawn said.

Rodriguez and her teammates picked up uniforms last Wednesday.

Central Valley's roster consists of three returners, Rodriguez, Katherine Avila (senior) and Mickayla Belcher (junior), and nine first-year competitors, Jil Baudler (senior), Christina Crum (senior), Karla Mejia (senior), Lizette Covarrubias (junior), Eva Noorzai (junior), Anicia Camarillo (junior), Taylor Rogers (junior), Julie Avila (freshman) and Jasmine Martinez (freshman).

Covarrubias and Noorzai played volleyball last year. Camarillo was a member of the golf team. The Hawks' tennis program will receive contributions from all three this season.

"I really don't know what to expect because most of the girls are new," said Hawn, who helped coach track and field and frosh-soph girls basketball at Central Valley last fall. "I've never been to a match. I'm in the same boat as most of the team. Hopefully, we do better than what we did last year."

Central Valley tied for fifth place with East Union and Weston Ranch at 4-10 in the 2008 VOL standings.