By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Nguyen earned elusive VOL title after two runner-up finishes
Sierra Highs Vannida Nguyen is the Manteca Bulletins 2012 All-Area Tennis Player of the Year. - photo by CHRIS LEONARD/


• Anna Cardenas, Sierra junior: Represents half of the second-place doubles team in the VOL tourney. Also a solid performer as the Timberwolves’ No. 3 singles player, finishing 10-2 in VOL duals.

• Noha Elabed, Manteca senior: After going undefeated in regular-season dual matches as Manteca’s No. 6 singles player, she was part of a dominating run to the VOL doubles championship.

• Rebekah Jacobson, East Union senior: Fourth-year varsity player earned All-VOL honors by reaching the semifinals in the conference tourney and ended up in fourth place.

• Wendy Lin, Manteca senior: She and sister Weley played from the No. 2 and 4 singles spots and both capped the VOL season with perfect records. Wendy teamed with Elabed to earn the VOL doubles title.

• Naomi Nunis, Sierra junior: The heir apparent for the top spot of Sierra’s singles ladder after going 9-3 in league from the No. 2 position. She and Cardenas were the only local players to win an SJS Tourney match.

• Chelsea Olitan, Weston Ranch senior: Held off fourth-seeded Jacobson 6-1, 6-4 to place third in the VOL singles tournament. Played key roles in the Cougars’ VOL title runs in 2010-11.

• Rosa Zou, Manteca senior: The only VOL player to truly test Player of the Year Vannida Nguyen, Zou was the runner-up in the league tournament while leading the Buffaloes to their first title since 1990.

 — Jonamar Jacinto

First it was the talented Kimball High standout Pyper Brown who kept Vannida Nguyen from capturing the Valley Oak League singles championship as a sophomore. The following year, it was surprising Ly Hoang of Weston Ranch who got in her way.

In this, her final year as Sierra’s No. 1 player, nothing was going to stop Nguyen from achieving VOL supremacy — except for maybe leg cramps.

It was an otherwise uneventful run to her first and only conference title, and it was her dominance in league that made Nguyen an easy pick for the Manteca Bulletin’s All-Area Tennis Player of the Year honor.

In the semifinal round of the VOL Singles Championships, Nguyen faced Weston Ranch veteran Chelsea Olitan, the tournament’s No. 3 seed. That was when both legs cramped up, worsening by the second during a 30-minute break in action.

“That was really challenging,” Nguyen said. “That really tested my mental (strength). My dad gave me a pep talk and said this is a once-in-a-lifetime thing, this might be it for you so push through the pain. I really owe that one to my dad.”

The final score showed little indication of her struggles: 6-2, 6-1.

Two days later she made her third straight final-round appearance. There, she took on Manteca High’s Rosa Zou for a third time. Zou was the only player to previously give Nguyen fits, once taking her to three sets. Nguyen again coasted 6-2, 6-1.

“As far as (regular) season I accomplished all that I wanted to, but my goal was postseason — I wanted to at least get past the second round, maybe get to the quarterfinals at sections,” Nguyen said. “My emotions just got the best of me, as did nerves.”

Nguyen, who went 16-0 in league, struggled in her only match in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II Individual Tournament. She was eliminated by Rio Americano’s Jessica Crockett 1-6, 1-6.

As a team, Sierra went 11-3 to take second in league for the second time in three years. They completed the 2012 campaign at 16-5 overall after getting swept by McClatchy in the second round of the SJS Division II Team Tournament.

“Our team got as far as we could possibly go,” Nguyen said. “It was nice to lead a group of girls like that. There was nothing more I could have asked out of the team or myself, so I’m satisfied.”

Nguyen is realistic about her future in tennis. On top of dropping her one match in the section individual tourney, she lost two others in the postseason team duals against Ceres’ Marifer Ochoa and McClatchy’s Juliann Wang.

“I’m going to try out in college but I’m not expecting much,” said Nguyen, who has UC Irvine at the top of her college wish list. “I’m going to college for school, not for tennis. I’ll still play for fun, but it looks like this is it.”

She at least goes out as a champion.