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Defensive-minded Hoang answered critics with victories
Weston Ranch senior Ly Hoang is the 2011 Manteca Bulletin All-Area Tennis Player of the Year. - photo by HIME ROMERO

• Ashley Duenas, East Union senior: Teamed with fellow four-year veteran Klassey Kachalkin for a surprising run to the VOL doubles title. Also took fourth in the singles tournament. 
• Wendy Lin, Manteca junior: Manteca’s No. 1 singles player did her best work with Rosa Zou in doubles. They battled EU’s Duenas-Kachalkin tandem in the VOL finals, falling 7-5, 4-6, 2-6.
• Vannida Nguyen, Sierra junior: Two-time VOL singles runner-up suffered her only losses in league to All-Area Player of the Year Ly Hoang. Another year of work should make her favorite for 2012.
• Jasmine Sandhu, Manteca senior: Buffaloes’ No. 2 player finished four-year varsity career strong with an impressive straight-set win over Oakmont’s Kate Smith in an SJS Division-II Team Tourney opener.
• Kaile Hunt, Manteca junior / Mia Ramirez, Manteca senior: Area’s top doubles tandem went 16-0 in dual matches, capping the year with a hard-fought 5-7, 7-5, 6-3 win in the team tourney playoffs.
— Jonamar Jacinto

Ly Hoang doesn’t earn style points with her defensive approach to tennis.

But it does get her points.

The Weston Ranch senior and Manteca Bulletin All-Area Tennis Player of the Year drew more criticism than praise for her patient play and opportunistic counterattacking.

“I heard that all season non-stop,” Hoang said of the negative chatter she would here from opposing players and coaches during matches. “It was very detrimental. It lowered my self-esteem on my ability to play and I didn’t believe in myself.

“I was a bit negative about how I played and I would question my coach (Jason Furtado), but he always reassured me that my style (fits) me and it’s what was making me win.”

No matter the method, it made Hoang a champion.

She beat Sierra High standout Vannida Nguyen, arguably the top returning player in the Valley Oak League, in two of three contests. They split during the dual season, with Nguyen winning their first match decisively after dropping the first set, 2-6, 6-0, 6-2. Hoang evened the score in the rematch on Oct. 11, 6-2, 0-6, 6-4.

“Her style was new to me,” said Hoang, lauding Nguyen’s superior velocity on her shots that come at different angles. “The second time we played I was used to her style and I adapted to it. With a return that’s high and deep she doesn’t have the opportunity to make those shots.”

The rubber match was set up in the VOL Singles Tournament finals at Columbia College in Sonora Oct. 25. It was the most competitive match of the three but also the shortest. Hoang prevailed, 6-3, 6-4.

She finished 16-1 in league before losing her final two matches in the postseason.

In the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-II Team Tennis Tournament, Hoang gave Christian Brothers standout Lindsay Donovan all she could handle in a 7-6 (7-6 tiebreaker), 6-7 (6-7), 2-6 loss. Hoang nearly clinched it in the second set but could not deliver the knockout blow after staking a 5-4 lead. Her Cougars as a team lost 7-2 in the second-round contest.

Donovan at the time was the best Hoang had ever faced. That changed days later when she played in the SJS Division-II Individual Tournament in Roseville. There, she was paired with third-seeded freshman Carolina Chernyetsky of El Camino and lost, 0-6, 0-6.

“When I walked in it was just so unreal that I actually made it,” Hoang said. “When I got paired up with the No. 3, Furtado had given me so much confidence that I thought I could win. I had a lot of faith in myself, but she is just a really great player. I mean, she’s been playing for 10 years, so I was OK with how I did.”

Hoang rightfully was just happy to be there.

Nobody expected it, not even herself.

She had no prior tennis experience when trying out for the team her freshman year. During her sophomore and junior years she was on the No. 1 doubles team that helped the Cougars claim their first-ever VOL tennis championship in 2010.

Weston Ranch repeated as VOL champ in 2011 with its reluctant leader paving the way.

“I’m very fortunate to be a part of this team,” she said. “The (newer) players improved so rapidly and I’m very proud of them. I had high expectations for our team to begin with and we exceeded them.”

As for expectations of herself, she kept them realistic even after winning the McNair Tournament’s title in August. It was then that she debuted as a singles player.

“I did not expect myself to go so far because I made a quick transition to No. 1 singles,” Hoang said. “It was definitely a challenge.

“My expectations for the season were somewhere in the middle — I wasn’t going to win it all, but I didn’t think I was going to lose a lot either. My goal was just to win as much as I can.”

Hoang didn’t win with style, but she won with grace.

She won, period.