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Nguyen seizes crown in third finals appearance
Mantecas Elabed, Lin team up to garner VOL doubles title
Sierra High tennis players rush the court to join Vannida Nguyen in celebration of her Valley Oak League championship win Thursday in Tracy. - photo by JONAMAR JACINTO

TRACY — Vannida Nguyen couldn’t hide her excitement, and who could blame her?

The senior standout from Sierra is finally the Valley Oak League singles champion. A two-time runner-up, Nguyen defeated Manteca’s Rosa Zou 6-2, 6-1 in Thursday’s final-round match at Kimball High. After clinching the win, Nguyen’s teammates and coach, Vanessa Weeks, joined her on the court to celebrate.

Manteca, the VOL’s regular-season team titlist, didn’t come away empty-handed, as seniors Noha Elabed and Wendy Lin teamed up to earn the doubles crown.

“I have a lot of adrenaline going right now,” Nguyen said shortly after receiving her championship medal. “I was counting down how many points I needed, and when I lost the point I was like, ‘It’s OK, just rebound from it.’”

The final outcome suggests a landslide victory for Nguyen, who ended up 16-0 against VOL opponents this season. During the regular season it was Zou who gave Nguyen the stiffest challenge.

Zou had chances to stay in the fight during both sets but failed to deliver deuce points. She set herself up nicely for scoring opportunities with approach shots throughout the match but had trouble executing at the net.

“I made every single stupid mistake I’ve ever made in my life today,” Zou said. “I think it was nerves more than anything. In the first game of the first set I was OK, and I sort of lost it from there.

“She deserves it. She fought her way through cramps (on Tuesday), and she’s been a finalist twice before this. She really wanted it more than me.”

Nguyen was hampered by cramping legs during her semifinal match with Weston Ranch’s Chelsea Olitan on Tuesday. Olitan dispatched Rebekah Jacobson of East Union 6-1, 6-4 in the third-place match Thursday.

All semifinalists in the singles and doubles tournaments earned spots on the all-league team, and finalists qualify for next week’s Sac-Joaquin Section Division II Tournament in Roseville. Nguyen and Zou won’t be alone, as teammates from their respective clubs duked it out in the doubles finals Thursday.

“I’m excited and nervous about it,” Elabed said of advancing to sections. “We know (the competition) will get a lot tougher.”

Lin and Elabed, who play No. 2 and 6 singles, respectively, for Manteca in dual matches, topped Sierra’s Anna Cardenas and Naomi Nunis 6-1, 6-0. The Timberwolf tandem claimed the opening game before Lin and Elabed ran the table.

Adjusting to doubles was a challenge for Elabed and Lin, as is always the case for singles players, but they made it look easy.

Following a first-round bye, they defeated fellow Buffaloes Adeaze Nkwocha and Weley Lin (Wendy’s sister), 8-3; Kimball’s Krishna Sankara and Ysabell Candalla 6-3, 6-0; and eventual third-place finishers Francesca Orvis and Nicole Dickens of Oakdale 6-0, 6-2 in the semifinals.

Manteca’s usual No. 1 duo of Kaile Hunt and Liz Diaz went undefeated during the regular season but dropped their first match 8-3 to Oakdale’s super doubles team of Katie Odom and Kalkidan Curtis.

“I feel great, and I owe it all to my partner,” Elabed said.

“She did most of the work,” Wendy Lin countered.

Both Manteca and Sierra aren’t done playing yet under the team format. The SJS Division II team playoffs begin next Monday with Sierra, the VOL runner-up, hosting Ceres, the third-place squad out of the Western Athletic Conference. Manteca was awarded a first-round bye and will take on Solano County Athletic Conference runner-up Benicia on Tuesday.