Mackenzie Cook grew up playing all sorts of sports, but she knew she'd end up playing tennis.
"We're a tennis family," said Cook, a Modesto High junior. "All of us play."
She's been a major part of the Modesto High powerhouse program the last three years.
This year, she completed an undefeated conference season that included every victory in straight sets. She was named the Modesto Metro Conference MVP and, after yet another team league title for the Panthers, is The Bee's 2008 girls tennis player of the year.
It was a season of transition for Cook. After two years of playing behind No. 1 singles player Katie Eng -- The Bee's player of the year the last two seasons as well -- the top spot was hers.
"Katie and I played together for two years, and it was great," Cook said.
This year, it was her turn. She said she felt no pressure, no extra worries.
"The team was so supportive," Cook said. "It was just a great bunch of girls. We had so much fun this season.
"I'll remember this team the most. Just how well we got along and how much fun we had."
The victories were nice as well. The Panthers, led by Cook, rolled through the MMC. They advanced to the quarterfinals of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I team tournament, losing 5-4 to Central California Conference champ Turlock.
After Cook and her family moved to Modesto from Cincinnati seven years ago, she started working with Modesto Fitness and Racquet Club's Mark Fairchilds. She and her siblings -- brother Garrett, 13, and sister Karrigan, 10 -- play year-round through the United State Tennis Association.
In between matches, she's found a way to carry a 4.6 grade-point-average through Modesto's prestigious International Baccalaureate program.
"It's tough to keep up," Cook said. "It takes a lot of organization. And it takes a lot of family support."
She's also adding facets to her game. While she spends much of her time roaming the baseline, hoping her superior conditioning wears her opponents down, she's beginning to work on her net game as well.
But individual accolades or not, Cook most enjoys her teammates and her school.
"I love representing Modesto High School," she said. "And I love my teams. All three of my years, we've had some really good groups."
Bee staff writer Will DeBoard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2300.
Coach of the year:
JUAN ALANIZ, Turlock
First-year coach saw the Bulldogs roll through CCC play and all the way to the semifinals of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I team tournament. His doubles players Monica Duarte and Lauren LaVelle made it to the section doubles championship match.
Buhach Colony senior
CCC singles champ leaned on a booming forehand as she completed an undefeated league season. German foreign exchange student is standout field hockey player, but successfully made the transition to tennis.
VOL co-MVP was 32-0 in league for second year in a row and won second singles title. She went 34-1 overall, losing in first round of section D-II tourney. Also led 'Dogs to section D-II Team Tournament.
VOL co-MVP was 32-2 this year and 63-5 the last two seasons, despite not picking up a racquet before starting high school. Three-year varsity starter reached section D-II tourney before season ended.
Part of an all-District doubles team as a freshman, went to No. 2 singles and was second at MMC tourney to teammate Cook. Her long-term future appears to be in doubles and she carries a 3.43 GPA.
Four-year starter and No. 1 singles player, focused on doubles for postseason and reached semifinals of section tourney. Twice made section singles tourney and lost just 14 times in four-year career.
MONICA DUARTE* AND LAUREN LaVELLE*
Doubles team remained intact for second year and again ruled district. Duarte (top) and LaVelle helped 'Dogs to semifinals of D-I Team Tournament and the duo reached the semifinals of the doubles tourney before their run ended.
*RETURNING MEMBER OF THE ALL-DISTRICT TEAM