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Vanni area, state’s top goal scorer

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Sierra High's Nicole Vanni is the 2009 Manteca Bulletin All-Area Girls Soccer Player of the Year.


POSTED June 26, 2009 2:22 a.m.
Nicole Vanni, the 2009 Bulletin All-Area Most Valuable Player, is quite possibly the best girls soccer player ever to compete at Sierra High.

Over the course of her four-year career, Vanni scored 107 goals and dished out 44 assists in helping the Timberwolves go 84-15-10 while outscoring their opponents 414-75.

Vanni holds Sierra’s all-time career goals record, breaking Cherie Early’s 1999-2003 mark of 101, and holds Sierra’s single-season goals record (53 in 2009), besting Katelyn Quaresma’s 2004 mark of 40.

This season, no one in California found net more often than the Timberwolves’ striker.

Despite the gaudy nature of Vanni’s mountainous list of achievements, however, the numbers don’t begin to tell the story.

“(The career-goals record) was a pretty cool accomplishment,” Vanni said. “But it wasn’t something that I came into the season even thinking about. I didn’t even know it was a possibility until about halfway through. We didn’t put any emphasis on it, I know I never did.

“That wasn’t what I was out there to do.”

Instead, what makes Vanni the type of player that coaches and teammates adore, is what she and the rest of the Timberwolves were out there to do: Win.

Unfortunately for Sierra, the T’Wolves’ only poor performance of the season came in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV championship game, a 4-1 loss to Whitney, the lone setback in 29 contests.

The loss was an anti-climactic end to a dream season that garnered Sierra national acclaim as the No. 8 ranked team in the country by ESPN Rise.

Afterward, murmurs began to surface that the Timberwolves were overrated.

 “We had one bad game all season,” Vanni said. “We’ve heard people say that we’re overrated, but they’re judging our entire season on one game. It’s a bummer, and it comes with the territory, but if you don’t show up to play in the most important game, that’s what happens.”

One look at Sierra’s grueling preseason and an always-rigorous Valley Oak League docket serves as a forceful rebuttal to the skeptics on the periphery.

Sierra picked up wins over University of San Francisco, Ponderosa, Bella Vista, Central Catholic, Lincoln, El Dorado, West Campus, as well as two wins each over Sonora and Oakdale.

Sierra racked up 21 shutouts and outscored its VOL opponents 85-4, not including a 6-0 win over East Union in the title round of the Vern Gebhardt Champions Cup.

“It was a great season,” Vanni said. “We wanted one thing, and that was to win the championship. Even though we didn’t get the section, we still got the VOL. Most teams aren’t lucky enough to get even that, so we were grateful for it.”

As a striker, Vanni’s purpose on the field is to put the ball in the net. But her 17 assists tied midfielder Lacy Vaughan for second-most on the team, and point to her reputation as a team-first player.

“I like to win,” Vanni said. “But you can’t win by yourself. That’s always been my mind-set. It takes 11 players.”

On May 18, Vanni inked her national letter of intent to join head coach Jack Hyde at San Francisco State in the fall.

Vanni says that while she’s excited, she’s also starting to become a little nervous about taking the next step in her life.

Part of that process will be saying good-bye to her coaches and teammates, as well as her parents and little sister, Stephanie, who Vanni had an opportunity to play with for the first time ever over the course of the past two seasons.

“A lot of people said, ‘Oh, you’re so mean to your sister,’” Vanni said. “I’m not mean, I just know what she can do and I like to push her to be better. If she’s having a bad game, I’m going to yell at her to snap out of it. But she’s a great player and she works hard.”

And despite the fact that a supremely talented group of Sierra seniors are now walking away, Vanni believes that head coach Manuel Pires will have another winner on his hands a year from now.

“The whole team has a lot coming back,” Vanni said. “They are going to do great things next year.”
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