2014 MANTECA BULLETIN ALL-AREA GIRLS TENNIS TEAM
• Claire Banks, Sierra sophomore: Lost just one match in VOL duals, advanced to the singles tourney quarterfinals despite being unseeded and joined sister Annie in taking fourth in doubles.
• Sealy McAdams, Manteca senior: A key member of the Buffaloes’ past VOL championship teams, she went out as a third-place finisher in the league doubles tournament.
• Lejla Pepic, Manteca sophomore: Joined the team midway through the season and never lost in a dual match.
• Elizabeth Tolbert, Manteca junior: Manteca’s top player reached the VOL singles quarterfinals as the No. 4 seed and teamed with McAdams to place third in doubles.
— Jonamar Jacinto
Annie Banks has been playing on a tennis team for as long as she can remember, long before her brush with the Sierra High girls program.
You see, the bonds of the Banks family are strengthened on the court, where Dad plays with power and conviction, younger sister Claire plays with poise and the little brothers grow in potential with every outing.
For now, Annie Banks, with her well-rounded game and fiery competitive spirit, is the crown bearer.
For her team at school.
For her team at home.
And for all teams that comprise the Bulletin’s coverage area, from South Stockton to Ripon.
After closing her prep career with a bronze finish at the Valley Oak League Singles Tournament and a top seed in the doubles draw, Banks is the Manteca Bulletin’s All-Area Girls Tennis Player of the Year.
She follows in the footsteps of two former teammates, Anna Cardenas (2013) and Vannida Nguyen (2012), both of whom garnered All-Area player of the year honors after winning VOL championships.
Banks won’t have those same credentials, but her style of play left an indelible mark on the local tennis scene.
“She’s an aggressive player, which works out well for her,” Sierra coach Vanessa Weeks said of Banks. “With players that (play like a) backboard, you have to play aggressive. She can hit with power and spin and she plays a lot with her Dad too, so she can handle it when someone hits it back with power.
“I think that’s why so many players got frustrated, because they’d try one thing and it wouldn’t work and they’d try another and it still wouldn’t work.”
Banks finished her senior season with an 11-3 record in Valley Oak League regular-season matches, losing only to VOL singles champion Payton Kelley of Central Catholic and Oakdale’s Christine Kim twice.
She was undefeated in all non-league matches, including a perfect run at a round-robin tournament at Freedom High in Brentwood.
The highlight of her season was a three-set victory over Kelley. Banks rebounded from an opening-set loss with convincing victories in the next two, including a 6-0 showing to deliver Kelley her first and only loss in VOL competitions.
The final tally: 2-6, 6-3, 6-0. Banks said she simply needed a set to adjust to Kelley’s level of play.
“I feel like I play to my opponent’s ability, so it was fun playing her,” Banks said. “She was by far the best girl I’ve played. I was able to hit with her, and at first, I didn’t know that I could. Once I got the mental side of the game down, everything else came into play.”
The two seemed destined for a rematch in the final of the VOL Singles Tournament but third-seeded Banks was upset by No. 7 Amie Ardis of Central Catholic in the semifinal round in straight sets, 7-6 (7-4), 7-5.
“Annie might have been a little off or a little nervous, and that’s too bad,” Weeks said. “I think she could have probably taken that match (with Kelley).”
For once, Banks, playing on tired legs, couldn’t adapt to her opponent’s style.
“I would have really loved to win it,” she said of the VOL championship. “That was the goal. Vannida won it and then Anna. Still, it was great to keep up … to show what Sierra could do.
“It was a long match and she was a different player to play. She had a lot of shots I don’t like to play against; a lot of slice and spin. She was consistent and it really was just a matter of a few points.”
It didn’t detract from her season.
Banks was awarded the bronze by default when Kimball’s Kylie Moxley forfeited the third-place match. Two days later, in the VOL Doubles Tournament, Banks got a rare chance to play with her sister Claire, rather than against her in practice.
The two were seeded No. 1, but finished fourth after losing their final two matches, including a 6-3, 6-3 decision to Sealy McAdams and Elizabeth Tolbert of Manteca.
Banks wasn’t too bummed.
“I felt I had a good season. I really enjoyed playing Central Catholic. They were a real challenge and it was fun to challenge myself against them,” she said. “And I was excited that I got to play with my sister.
“We have played before, but not on that competitive level. It was fun to have that experience. That’s something I’ll remember.”
To contact Managing Editor James Burns email firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at jburns1980.