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Sierra tandem claims VOL doubles title
Timberwolves senior Jena Anderson finished off a perfect season with doubles partner Stephanie Vanni during the VOL championships Thursday. - photo by Ike Dodson
OAKDALE – The emotions on display when Oakdale senior Elise Derby’s return sailed out of bounds for the final point of the Valley Oak League doubles championship only told a portion of the story for Sierra High’s Stephanie Vanni and Jena Anderson’s unbelievable season.

Sierra’s No. 1 doubles team for the entire season needed every bit of its athleticism, battling to a 2-6, 6-4, 7-5 win in the tournament’s most entertaining match. Oakdale had its two best singles players, but crunch-time put the two Timberwolves’ chemistry on display for the entire league to witness.

“This was very important to us,” Anderson said amidst tears of joy. “It’s my senior year and I really just can’t believe it.”

Sierra looked to be in position for an all-Timberwolves final. Ann McFerran and Nguyen came up short 3-6, 1-6 in their semi-final match against Derby and Siedel but beat Oakdale’s Korrine Baxter and Kristin Mello 6-1, 6-0 to take third.

The Timberwolves’ top pair took on all challengers, defeating them in order while capturing the VOL crown with a pristine 28-0 run. Vanni and Anderson saved their most impressive feat for last, cruising to the championship and then defeating a talented Oakdale “super-doubles” team made up of Derby and Tierney Siedel — the Mustangs’ No. 1 and 2 singles players.

Oakdale raced to a convincing win in the first set, producing at least some doubt as to whether or not the league’s best doubles team would be able to finish out the perfect season. Resiliency was never an attribute that the team had to display during the VOL season, yet it’s the reason Vanni and Anderson finished as league’s champions Thursday.

“The girls showed up wanting to win the VOL championship,” Sierra head coach Arabella Whitlock said. “That is very hard for doubles to do when you’re going against singles players.

“They wanted to win it; they did not want to finish second.”

Anderson and Vanni had no interest in coming up short in their quest for a perfect season. They outlasted Baxter and Mello 6-4, 7-6 (7-3), draining the team of any extra energy they may.

The two standouts could only depend on one another and after putting the first set loss behind them, it became obvious that they were all they would need.

“We have been working very hard all season,” Vanni said. “This was our goal, we wanted to go undefeated, win VOL and go to sections.

“When we got to the final game, we weren’t going to let up.”

Now the pair will begin preparations for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II girls individual tennis tournament Nov. 12-13 at Johnson Ranch Racquet Club in Roseville. Sierra will tangle with teams from seven different league in pursuit of a section title.

“Their season was phenomenal,” Whitlock said. “They were undefeated; they’ve been undefeated all year. There is not a doubles team that they haven’t beat.

“They really need to be proud of that.”

Four of the six final teams in doubles play came from the area, including Weston Ranch’s Ly Hoang and Yurie Kosako and East Union’s Klasey Kachakin and Shalane Jackson.

Kachalkin and Jackson, both sophomores, had the unlucky draw, falling to the eventual champions 8-3 in the third round.

“I was ecstatic with the way they played today,” East Union head coach Julia Bylow said. “I think that they really stepped it up a notch. They played the No. 1 team really well and it could have went either way on a couple of those games.

“I feel we are this close to really breaking forth.”

Hoang and Bowen snatched a berth into the third round with a win over Ceres High’s No. 1 doubles team, but fell to Sierra’s No. 2 team in the third round.

“They did exactly what I wanted them to do,” Cougar head coach Jason Furtado said. “They were able to fight through a couple of very tough teams, but unfortunately they were unable to take it to the next level.

“They both have another year, so we’re just taking this as a really great learning process.”

The VOL singles championship was taken home for the third consecutive season by Ceres senior McKenzy Harden who beat teammate and last year’s third place finisher Angie Prak in straight sets to remain undefeated over the past three seasons.