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Torrey Pines’ Alyssa Ahn in running for prestigious girls tennis honor

Torrey Pines' Alyssa Ahn is in a group of 24 finalists for USA Today's National Girls Tennis Player of the Year Award.
Torrey Pines’ Alyssa Ahn is in a group of 24 finalists for USA Today’s National Girls Tennis Player of the Year Award.
(Ken Grosse)

Following a freshman season in which her superlative play ultimately resulted in winning the 2021 CIF individual championship, Torrey Pines girls’ tennis standout Alyssa Ahn has now vaulted onto the national stage.

On July 14, the 15-year-old San Diego native was officially named as one of the 24 athletes from across the country nominated for USA Today’s National Girls’ High School Tennis Player of the Year Award. The winner will be announced as part of a national awards show hosted by former NFL stars Rob Gronkowski and Vernon Davis and is scheduled to be streamed on YouTube July 31.

The tennis award is part of a comprehensive USA Today National Sports Award program that recognizes the top individuals in 29 prep sports as well as winners of 11 team/individual premier awards. Now in just the second edition of its current format, the USA Today production is promoted as the largest high school sports recognition program in the U.S. Last year’s girls’ tennis honoree was Carrie Beckman from Louisville (Ky) Sacred Heart Academy, who just finished her freshman year at Notre Dame.

The USA Today accolade came somewhat out of the blue for Ahn. “Honestly, I didn’t know about the program before being nominated,” said Ahn, who got a call from one of the newspaper’s representatives in mid-June. “It’s pretty cool, though, and I feel honored to be included in a group like this.

“I’ve been putting in a lot of hard work on the court and this will definitely motivate me to continue that.” Ahn is one of just four freshmen to be recognized for girls’ tennis and, along with Westlake High School’s Emma Sun, one of two hailing from California.The program, a derivative of USA Today’s previously existing regional high school awards brand, relies on statistical analysis, event coverage and coach/athletic director feedback to develop its list of finalists for each sport.

Ahn was around seven years old when she began playing tennis and started playing competitively less than two years later. She was regularly winning tournaments in the U-10 division and has been on an upward trajectory since. Prior to winning this year’s CIF individual title, Ahn was instrumental in Torrey Pines grabbing a berth in the eight-team CIF Open Division Playoffs where the Falcons reached the semi-finals.

“I was surprised to win the CIF championship but I also knew I had worked hard and going in hoped the tournament would reflect that,” said Ahn. “High school tennis was a lot different than what I was used to. I really enjoyed the season, liked the social aspect of playing with friends and connecting more on a personal level. I definitely felt a little more pressure at CIF, knowing how prestigious the event was and representing my school.”

For Torrey Head Coach Don Chu, Ahn and the USA Today award go hand-in-glove. “Alyssa’s just a perfect fit for this award and a perfect choice to represent Torrey Pines,” said Chu. “Her humility equals her talent and performance.

“As a high school player, she knows she’s a member of a team and that’s part of the attraction for her. She’s a great player but this is a family and that’s the culture—she’s an outstanding ambassador.” That’s not to say Chu doesn’t consider Ahn’s physical and mental talents with a racket in her hand first class.

“She’s got a strong all-around game and her only ‘weakness’ might be that, at 5-foot-4, she’s not ‘big’ yet,” continued Chu. “But she’s figured out how to get around that. Opponents have got to be ready to go to war when they play her because she’ll run you down.

“And her intelligence is something that separates her from other players. She’s extremely smart and learns from every win or loss. Alyssa just continues to challenge herself and doesn’t take losses personally—she doesn’t get down, she gets more determined.”

A 4.00 student in her first year at Torrey Pines, Ahn’s short-term tennis goal is to keep trending upward, creating an opportunity to attend a good college where she can combine academics and tennis. In the months succeeding the girls’ fall high school campaign, her primary focus was on training, followed by a recent string of big tournaments on part of the SoCal Pro Circuit. Those events include a high volume of college players combined with lower level professionals and top-ranked juniors.

“I’ve been able to qualify and been in several close matches but I haven’t won a main draw match yet” said Ahn in early July. “I’m definitely happy with how it’s going though. It’s been a confidence booster and at this point it’s more for experience than results.” Chu is clearly a big fan of how far Ahn has come and what lies ahead.

“I’m thrilled with the kid she is and the person Alyssa is becoming,” said Chu. “Her parents have her future centermost in mind and tennis is just a part of that—which is exactly how it needs to be.

“One of my favorite things about Alyssa is watching how she always comes over and cheers on her teammates after her match is over. There’s so much value in having that type of team aspect in what’s considered an individual sport. She’s a beautiful role model.”

For more information on the USA Today National High School Sports Award program, visit sports awards.usatoday.com.


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