St. John's Cevera wins county player of the year honor in girls tennis

St. John’s Alyssa Cevera returns a shot during the first-singles championship match against Geneva’s Gabbi Selman at the Ashtabula County Girls Tennis Tournament in September at Lakeside. Cevera has been selected as the Ashtabula County Girls Tennis Player of the Year for the 2021 season.

From playing third singles her freshman year to first singles as a sophomore, St. John’s Alyssa Cevera didn’t know what to expect reguarding her personal success.

“I wasn’t sure,” she said of her expectations. “I just tried to put in the work, and, you know, keep it going. Go out there, try my best and see what happens, whatever happens, happens.”

The ‘whatever’ she referred to happened to be winning matches ... as in winning a lot of matches, certainly more than she likely imagined at this early juncture of her career.

Cevera, a sophomore, was nothing less than dominant this fall for the Heralds.

She went 22-1 during the regular season, and captured the Ashtabula County first-singles title in the county tournament by defeating Geneva’s Gabbi Selman. Cevera actually beat Selman twice during the season.

Cevera’s only loss came to eventual state-placer Alyssa Nyborg from Orange High School.

For her efforts, Cevera has been named 2021 Ashtabula county Player of the Year.

As impressive as her record was this fall, what’s even more stirring is the reality that tennis is something Cevera only started playing a few years ago.

A little extra time on the practice court along with a few lessons and a strong desire to master the mental challenge the game offers has all helped her to rise quickly.

“It’s just getting to practice half an hour early and staying half an hour late,” Cevera said.

Success also comes from playing countless matches over the summer and receiving private lessons from local coaches. Having a sister that was a former county player of the year didn’t hurt either.

Emily Cevera, a 2019 St. John graduate, won the honor twice.

“She really got me into the game and she helped me a lot,” Alyssa Cevera said. “If it wasn’t for her, I probably wouldn’t be playing tennis.”

Her sister may have gotten her interested in the game, but no one can take credit for the drive and determination Cevera displayed on the court.

According to Heralds coach Todd Nassief, Cevera has all the tools necessary to be successful on the court.

“She’s quick and she’s a good athlete,” he said. “She’s consistent. She can volley. For someone who has not played a lot of doubles, she is a very good volleyer. She’s not afraid to come to the net and she hits very good passing shots.”

A three-sport athlete for St. John, as impressive as her physical abilities are, Nassief said what makes her an even stronger player is her mental toughness.

“For a younger player, nothing really rattled her,” he said. “She is mentally very tough. Emotionally, she doesn’t get too high or too low. She’s very business-like on the tennis court, she’s mature beyond her years.”

“I really do like the mental part of the game. I like when you can let other people know you are not phased by what they can do. You try to keep your head on what you’re doing.”

If there was one negative for Cevera this season it was the way it ended.

Cevera won her first match but lost her second to Perry’s Nicki Rosati.

“It was a struggle,” Cevera said. “It wasn’t the same without our coach being there. Nicki is a very good player. I was not on my game, though, I could have played better.”

After going a combined 23-2 and winning player of the year, Cevera can remain humble. The loss in the sectionals though can also keep her hungry to go further a year from now.

“Everyone in my family, we’re all about keeping things humble and giving the glory to God for any success we have,” she sakd. “My goals are just to keep my game going. Take things one match at a time and see what happens.”

Nassief added, “She’s a young girl and she has a high ceiling. It takes a lot of work, but I know she is willing to put the time into it.”

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