Unquestionably the top tennis player in the Manteca Bulletin coverage area for his first three years at Manteca High, Solman Aniss wanted his final act to be about the team.
Not every goal was met, but in the end the ultimate prize was shared with his fellow Buffaloes and longtime coach. Aniss’ prep career was punctuated by a Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV team championship, and with it a fourth All-Area Male Tennis Player of the Year award.
Aniss was a sophomore when the Buffaloes claimed the SJS Division III banner. That 2017 team, stacked with seniors and four-year players, was hardly tested. Different story in 2019, which makes this title run more satisfying for Aniss — one of just four seniors.
Manteca dusted Valley Oak League foe Oakdale 7-2 in the final round, avenging a regular-season defeat that stuck the Buffs with a low postseason seed thanks to their disappointing third-place finish behind the runner-up Mustangs and Central Catholic. Aniss finished the season undefeated from the No. 1 spot in dual matches.
“Given how much we struggled at the beginning of the year and that we had a number of new players, it was amazing to close out my senior year with a section title and bring another banner to Manteca High,” Aniss said. “None of it would have been possible without (coach Frank) Fontana’s devotion to the team.”
Aniss entered his senior year as the reigning VOL singles champion. The accolade was bittersweet, as it required him to beat teammate and best friend Kurtis Ma in the final. Also, Manteca did not qualify for the SJS team tournament, ending an 11-year streak of postseason appearances.
Aniss was a runaway favorite to repeat as the top singles player in league, considering the ease in which he vanquished the opposition over the course of the regular season.
Been there, done that.
For his senior year, Aniss wanted something else and to experience it with a friend. So, he and Ma — Manteca’s co-valedictorian and salutatorian, respectively — decided to team up as doubles partners, aiming to win a championship at the SJS Division II Individual Tournament.
The duo swept past Central Catholic’s Justin Traina and Dane Juarez 6-3, 6-4 for the VOL title. Aniss and Ma went on to knock off their first three opponents in straight sets at the section tourney before falling to top-seeded Mark Vyrlan and Vincent Pogson of Rio Americano 0-6, 2-6 in the final round. The two Buffaloes were hoping to become the school’s first champions in the individual tournament but were still proud of their second-place effort.
“Playing doubles with Kurtis was perhaps the most fun I ever had playing tennis in high school even though we didn’t make it all the way,” Aniss said. “It was phenomenal that we made it as far as we did.”
The Aniss Era has ended at Manteca High. Solman’s older brothers, Mostafa and Yaseen, both former All-Area Tennis Players of the Year, watched his final match at Modesto Junior College where the team captured its second section title. The youngest of the three is on his way to Stanford.
“Everything came full circle with my brothers there, and it made it even more meaningful,” Solman said. “They both introduced me to the sport in the first place.”
Kyle Banks, Sierra
Kurtis Ma, Manteca
Sam Brown, Ripon
Phillip Carlson, Ripon
Taylor Alger, Ripon Chr.
Liam Kelly, Ripon Chr.