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Vanni to join sibling at San Francisco State
Sisters Nicole, left, and Stephanie Vanni celebrate a goal during a Sierra High girls soccer game against rival East Union on April 17, 2009. Next year, the Vannis will be reunited as teammates at San Francisco State. - photo by JONAMAR JACINTO
In March 2009, Nicole Vanni signed her National Letter of Intent to play for San Francisco State.

For her younger sister Stephanie, then a sophomore at Sierra High, it marked the beginning of the end. That spring girls soccer season would be the last time the Vannis would play on the same team.

“To be honest, two years ago, (San Francisco State) wasn’t really my first choice,” Stephanie said.

On National Signing Day Wednesday, the change of heart was made official when Vanni signed to play for San Francisco State on partial scholarship in front of coaches and relatives at Sierra’s main gym.

“It’ll be like high school all over again,” said Nicole, who was a part of the audience that also included parents, Greg and Deborah, grandparents, Sierra head coach Greg Leland and assistant Shane Lewis.

“It will be fun. We’re going to have a really good team next year, and I’m looking forward to having Stephanie join us.”

The Gators had their most successful season in program history this past fall, finishing 11-5-5 overall while earning the school its first California Collegiate Athletic Conference title in any sport and an automatic berth to the NCAA Division II National Championships.

Nicole had three goals and two assists while starting all 21 of San Francisco State’s matches.

“The more I went to the school to watch my sister (play), the more I realized that’s where I wanted to play for the next four years,” Stephanie said.

Nicole said she had little to do with recruiting her sister. Stephanie initiated contact by emailing head coach Jack Hyde and assistant Mary Trigg and left it up to them to figure out the family ties.

“They were like, ‘Hey, is your sister emailing us?’” Nicole said. “Once they figured that out they started checking her out and went from there.”

Nicole Vanni graduated from Sierra in 2009 as the program’s all-time scoring leader and was twice named the Bulletin’s All-Area MVP. She was also tabbed All-American by the National soccer Coaches Association of America and adidas.

Stephanie, a four-year varsity starter like her sister, had a breakout junior season, leading the Timberwolves with 26 goals. She has 43 career goals to go with 20 assists, but she will likely play more of a defensive role at the next level.

Chico State and Southern Oregon were other schools interested in Stephanie, who can now focus on wrapping up her senior year both academically and athletically.

Vanni sports a 3.61 grade point averages and is a three-sport standout. She was a part of the 2009 Valley Oak League Doubles Tournament championship tandem in tennis and is currently the starting point guard for Sierra’s girls basketball team.

For the soccer season, she aims to lead Sierra to a third straight VOL title and its first Sac-Joaquin Section championship since 2004.

“I can’t wait for the soccer season to start,” she said. “I just want to enjoy my senior year stress free.”