By VINCE REMBULAT
STOCKTON – They’re the top academic students at Manteca High.
Solmon Aniss and Kurt Ma, who were recently named valedictorian and salutatorian for the Class of 2019, can add Valley Oak League’s doubles champs to the list.
They earned the latter title at Thursday’s VOL tennis tournament at Weston Ranch High, defeating Central Catholic’s Justin Traina and Dane Juarez in straight sets, 6-3, 6-4.
“Last year, we split playing singles,” said Ma, who was runner-up in the VOL singles tournament in 2018 behind champion Aniss. “This year we wanted play (doubles) together.”
They captured the doubles title despite a slow start in the first set, trailing 3-1.
Aniss and Ma then won five straight games.
“We needed to pick it up,” Aniss, who will be attending Stanford University in the fall (Ma is leaning towards UC San Diego). “We just fed off each other once we got going.”
Traina and Juarez, who started in the VOL singles tournament before switching over to doubles play — Juarez’s forfeit in the singles semifinals enabled Sierra High’s Kyle Banks to advance (more on that) — had just come off a tough three-set victory over Frankie Dutra and Liam Peters of Oakdale in semifinals, taking some of that momentum into the title game.
The Manteca duo maintained a slight edge over the Central Catholic team throughout the second set.
“I’m happy with the results,” said Buffaloes coach Frank Fontana, who will take his team to Merced on Monday for the first round of the San Joaquin Section Division III playoffs. “It was a final that we anticipated.”
Banks lost to Lance Lee of Kimball in the VOL singles title game.
The Sierra High senior opened with an 8-4 win over Caleb Poling of Oakdale and outlasted Chance Mizuno of Kimball, 8-6, on the previous day.
“It was happy to play for the (singles) title,” said Banks, who took fourth in last year’s VOL tournament.
He along with Aniss and Ma have advanced to next Wednesday’s SJS Sections Individual tournament at the Johnson Ranch Sports Club in Roseville.