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Timberwolf tandem was undefeated in Valley Oak League

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Sierra High boasted the best doubles team in the area thanks to the dominating play of Stephanie Vanni and Jena Anderson, The Bulletin's All-Area Tennis Players of the Year.


POSTED December 23, 2009 2:41 a.m.
Sierra High standouts Jena Anderson and Stephanie Vanni put together a season that left the Valley Oak League’s doubles teams in an unfair position of knowing they were going to lose.

Not only did the duo dominate for a season-long run, it never lost.

Anderson, the senior of the two, and Vanni, a returning junior, flowed like poetry on the court for 32 consecutive matches without a blemish.

They rolled over every VOL opponent, showcasing their best play during the league’s doubles tournament final.

With a berth into the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II individual tennis tournament secure by advancing to the championship round, Anderson and Vanni still had work to be done.

They wanted to finish the VOL season undefeated.

“We lost that first set and then we won the second set,” Anderson said of the 2-6, 6-4, 7-5 league doubles championship win over Elise Derby and Tierney Seidel of Oakdale High. “We knew that if we really wanted to win it that we had to focus up and beat them.”

It was the first set that they dropped against a league opponent, but they responded well to it. The two depended on one another, cheered for one another and played their hearts out for one another on their way to the Bulletin’s Tennis Players of the Year.

“You have to be able to communicate and know what each other is doing,” Vanni said of the pair’s chemistry. “Whenever we played together, we both knew what the other one was doing.”

Sierra rode the pair to an 11-5 VOL season. They closed out the regular season a perfect 28-0, not seeing defeat until the second round of the section tournament in Rocklin. Sierra head coach Arabella Whitlock knew the Timberwolves would be better suited with a dominate doubles team versus the pair playing individually, creating the masterpiece that epitomized excellence with one of the area’s most dominant tennis seasons.

“You always hope they are going to go above and beyond what you see,” Whitlock said. “I’m always telling my girls that ability is awesome; persistence is great, but passion cannot be coached. These two made a decision after the second match in league that they were going to go undefeated. They proved it against the Oakdale No. 1 and 2 in the final.

“They’re awesome athletes, but their passion is why they won.”

Vanni will likely explore the singles arena of VOL tennis with the graduation of Anderson, but Anderson has no regrets on missing out on a singles career for sharing court space with a friend.

“I am way happy with my decision to play doubles,” Anderson said. “Playing singles is an entirely different game. You don’t have someone there telling you ‘it’s OK’ and picking you up. Everything is totally on your shoulders and nobody else’s.”

Their accomplishments rank alongside some of the most impressive feats in Sierra’s school history.

“We held our standards high just like football, soccer or baseball,” Anderson said. “We wanted to stand out for some of the other unnoticed sports.”
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