State

All District 2009: Ceres' Harden capped storied prep career at section semifinals

McKenzy Harden served and volleyed in 170 high school matches and lost only nine.

That stat stands alone in its power, so it's also provocative that in her swan-song match, in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II semifinals last month in Roseville, Harden lost 6-0, 6-0.

Harden, a Ceres High senior, walked to the net to shake hands with Granite Bay sophomore Karolina Kecki, who eventually won her second straight title. It was done — game, set, prep career.

"Kind of sad," Harden remembered. "Sad that I lost, sad that the season was over, but also happy because I had lost to the best player."

Indeed, Harden had stretched her season to the maximum in arguably the section's toughest division. After losses in the quarterfinals the last two years, she accomplished a major goal.

Such a performance made it easy to make her The Bee's Stanislaus District Girls Tennis Player of the Year for 2009.

There wasn't much shelf life in Harden's season-ending loss when measured against the totality of her career. She's Ceres High's best-ever female tennis player, and the numbers don't lie:

44-1 as a senior and four-time team captain.

MVP and Valley Oak League champion for the third straight year. She was 90-0 after a loss in the VOL finals as a freshman.

6-0 at the prestigious Fresno tournament.

"I am more proud of her as a father than a coach," said Bryan Harden, McKenzy's father and the coach of the Bulldogs for 19 seasons. "She was very good as a freshman but she got off to such a late start compared to other girls at that level. We wanted her to have a life."

Harden dropped other sports to concentrate on her two favorite activities — dance and tennis. The strategy worked.

She became a tennis star while building a grade-point averaged that reached 4.5 this year.

The expectations heaped upon her weren't easy. Not only was she the captain and the coach's daughter, she was virtually mandated to win.

"I put it (the pressure) on myself. My family always has been supportive and never pushed me in a bad way. They knew my capabilities," Harden said. "He (her father) did push me harder than the others, but I had to work harder because I am his daughter and the captain. I set the bar."

She's learned over the years to control her emotions on the court in order to concentrate longer. That will lead to an extension to her career, hopefully next year at her top choice, Cal State Stanislaus.

"I like my family and friends watching me," Harden said. "I think I'd rather stay closer to home."

Bee staff writer Ron Agostini can be reached at ragostini@modbee.com or 578-2302.

  Comments