TRACY — Solman Aniss and Kurtis Ma proudly wore the medals around their necks after going head-to-head in the Valley Oak League Tournament singles final Thursday at Kimball High.
Aniss defeated his good friend and teammate 6-3, 6-1 in his second straight final-round appearance, but for the Manteca High standouts it was a win for a team that will narrowly miss the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs for the first time in 12 years.
Aniss did not get to complete his season-long revenge tour against Kimball’s Logan Le, last year’s league champion who beat him three times in 2017. Aniss got the better of Le in their regular-season showdowns.
Le opted out of the singles tournament, instead joining his brother Lance for the doubles competition. The top-seeded Les defeated Central Catholic’s Dane Juarez and John Dunn 7-5, 6-3 for the doubles crown.
“It was a little anti-climactic not getting to face Le, but I was fortunate enough to be able to win two matches against him in the regular season so it wasn’t really on my mind,” Aniss said. “I’m happy that we were able to get two Manteca High players in the final, so at the end of the day it worked out nicely.”
It’s the third time two Buffaloes squared off in the final round in the last decade. Aniss’ older brothers, Mostafa and Yassen, played for the 2008 championship, and Oral Nunis and Mike Lopez met in 2012.
“It’s always a little awkward playing against your teammate in a competitive environment,” the youngest Aniss said. “Kurtis and I are friends, so at the end of the day there are no hard feelings. I’m just happy I was able to play some good tennis in this tournament.”
While Aniss wrapped up a perfect run through league, Ma also quietly had a strong season. Both juniors, they hope to lead the Buffaloes back to the section team playoffs after winning the Division III title last season.
Ma entered tournament play seeded sixth and vanquished higher-ranked opponents along the way, including No. 2 Kyle Banks of Sierra, 6-4, 6-1 in the semifinals on Tuesday. Ma lauded Aniss for his “killer serves” in their final-round showdown and took the defeat in stride.
“We just went as hard as we could against each other,” he said. “It was just another match we were trying to win.”
Local competitors did not fare as well in doubles action.
Brothers Kyle and Quentin Banks checked in as the No. 3 seed and started with an 8-3 win over Manteca’s Nick Pio and Kayson Neduvakkattu. They were then upset by Kimball No. 6 Sahil Thakur and Paolo Acosta, 6-7 (2), 4-6.
East Union’s eighth-seeded pair of Mathew Vadachira and Jeffin Abraham also reached the quarterfinals after beating Oakdale’s Frankie Dutra and Marc Chavez, 8-4. The Le brothers got past the two Lancers, 6-2, 6-0.
The singles and doubles finalists advance to the SJS Division II Individual Tournament at Johnson Ranch Racquet Club in Roseville on May 2-3.
“It’s a whole other world of tennis,” said Aniss, who will make his third straight trip to Roseville. “Everybody is a top player, but hopefully we’ll be able play some good tennis and represent the VOL well in Roseville.”