Torrey Pines freshman Ahn upsets senior Barksdale

Freshman Alussa Ahn shows toff the trophy for winning the San Diego Section girls tennis title on Friday.
(Don Norcross)

Ahn defeats three-time champion Barksdale for San Diego Section singles title


When her opponent’s final shot landed long, Alyssa Ahn looked toward her coach, her friends and family with her jaw dropped low, as if to say, “Did that really just happen?”

It did. Ahn, a 14-year-old Torrey Pines freshman, pulled off the upset, knocking off 17-year-old No. 1 seed Kaila Barksdale of Westview 6-2, 6-2 Friday afternoon at the Balboa Tennis Club to win the girls CIF San Diego Section singles title.

A senior, Barksdale was attempting to set history, becoming the first girl to win three straight section titles since La Jolla Country Day’s Alexandra Stevenson from 1995 to ’97.

“I felt nervous this time because there was a lot on the line,” said Barksdale.

Demonstrating class, Barksdale added, “But Alyssa, she played really well.”

While the result was an upset, it wasn’t stunning. Ahn was the tournament’s No. 2 seed. She’s ranked ninth in Southern California and 68th nationally in the Girls 16s. In the Girls 18s, Barksdale is ranked fourth in Southern California, 44th nationally.

The baseline specialists played two sets during the team portion of the regular season, Barksdale winning both, 6-3 and 6-4.

The difference Friday was Barksdale’s nerves — “She had all the pressure on her,’ said Torrey Pines coach Don Chu — and Ahn demonstrated a better all-around game.

“I knew I had nothing to lose,” Ahn said. “But I also knew, based on previous matches, I could definitely pull off the win.”

Ahn broke out of the gate quickly, vaulting to a 4-0 lead. She closed the set breaking Barksdale’s serve at love. After four games, the second set was tied at 2-2 and it looked like it might be game on. Instead, Ahn rattled off the last four games.

Out of eight service games, Barksdale held just once.

“I wasn’t being that aggressive,” said Barksdale. “I was just trying to get my first serve in. I knew she could tee off on the second serve. I think I just needed to hit with more pace.”

It took Ahn three match points to close the match.

Ahn might have been the younger player but she demonstrated more versatility. She generated more pace on serve and picked opportune times to come to the net. Barksdale’s game can be difficult to face. She hugs the baseline, alternating flat, hard backhands with looping forehand moon balls.

“I think the difference was mostly my mentality throughout the whole match,” said Ahn. “Knowing I was up a lot or close (I had) a steady mind and played it by each point and not the score.”

Ahn planned a simple celebration.

“A juicy burger and dessert,” she said.

In the doubles final, it was an all-Canyon Crest Academy affair with seniors Asha Gidwani and Lyna Fowler defeating Lillian Finnegan and Yule Kang 6-4, 6-2. It was the second straight doubles title for Gidwani and Fowler, who are both headed to UC Irvine.

Norcross is a freelance writer.