A round of applause for coaches who led their teams to great things

Yesterday’s Top 10 featured the top team performances of the past school year. Now it’s time to highlight the coaches, who don’t get nearly enough credit most of the time.

Naturally many on this list are ones from team’s we spotlighted yesterday. And yes it’s hard to narrow it down to just 10. I also wanted to include some that weren’t obvious choices, so here goes . . .

10. Ben Davies, Alta Loma girls soccer (24-5)
The Braves looked to be a true threat to win a Division 5 CIF title all season. Then star player Leah Pruitt went down with what looked like a season-ending knee injury vs. Montclair on Jan. 28. There was a brief hiccup the next game as the Braves lost to Colony. But they regrouped nicely, even without Pruitt to win the league title. Pruitt amazingly returned vat the end of the season and Alta Loma managed to get to the quarterfinal before losing to Palm Desert 3-0.

9. Jackie Robinson, Los Osos track
The Grizzles took five athletes to the state competition and four of those placed in a total of five events. There were two athletes in the throwing events but the other athletes were all in different events. Versatility indeed.

8. Luis Garcia, Don Lugo football (6-5)
This one might surprise people but the Conquistadores weren’t on anyone’s radar. They haven’t been good – 3-7 in 2013 and I picked them last this year. Well they went 6-4 under a first-year coach and were third in the Mt. Baldy. Only a 9-7 loss to Chaffey kept them out of second. The Conquistadores turned in an admirable performance in the playoffs, losing to perennial title contender Monrovioa 26-20 in overtime. They also took the Milk Can from local rival Chino which had dominated them as of late.

7. Christine Howard, Colony girls basketball (22-9)
The Titans went all the way to the Division 2A CIF title game before falling to South Torrance 57-56. They were the co-champion in the Mt. Baldy League with Alta Loma, splitting regular season games with the Braves. Colony also got that far with a balanced offense, not relying heavily on any one player.

6. Tishanna Pope, Alta Loma volleyball (36-3)

The Braves had no competition in the Mt. Baldy League so the toughest task for Pope was trying to find a way to keep her team sharp and focused when they didn’t have an equal. Teams that lack competition in the regular season frequently crash and burn in the playoffs – not the Braves who won a CIF title and finished as state runner-up.

5. Jason Schmelzeisen, Chaffey boys  soccer (22-2-5)
The Tigers had a tough task at hand just in Mt. Baldy League play and they finished first, not securing that outright title until a 4-3 overtime win against Ontario the final game of the regular season. That win also came despite playing a man down. Chaffey got to the Division 3 title game before falling to Cathedral 2-0.

4. Randy Bohlmann, Damien volleyball (26-7)
The Spartans won the Division 5 CIF title this season, getting past the quarterfinal for the first time in school history. Bohlmann started the program five years ago so he was the one laying the foundation. Now he is reaping the benefits. The Spartans also did a masterful job of shutting down a marquee player in the CIF title match.

3. Dave Kleckner, Etiwanda boys basketball (24-9)

OK, he’s one that could be on the list every year. And maybe the Eagles didn’t win the Baseline League for the first time in more than a decade. But it was how his team bounced back after that. His team beat both Chino Hills and Damien the second time through league play. It made a run to a CIF final that included a win AT Mater Dei and one over Sierra Canton to whom it lost earlier in the season. The Eagles stayed in the elite Open Division in basketball, losing a SoCal regional semifinal to LA Fairfax.

2. Keith Richardson, Pomona football (11-4)
Richardson had to right the ship and keep his team focused amid numerous distractions, the most notable being the dismissal of the head coach right before the playoffs. Richardson, then the defensive coordinator, took over and did just that. He was officially rewarded with the head coaching position.

1. Matt Dunn, Damien boys basketball (29-5)

The Spartans move from one league into the Baseline, probably the most competitive in all the Southern Section. And they win nine of 10 league games, finishing ahead of Etiwanda and Chino Hills. They lost a second round Open Division CIF game to Orange Lutheran but capitalized on the second chance and won a state title in Division 3 in that portion of the playoffs. A lot of coaches have trouble getting a team up for the state playoffs after a CIF run. No problem here. Some said the Spartans would have been better off in Division 3, a probable easy winner, and not in the Open. Dunn said, “Bring it On.”

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Alta Loma’s Taylor Kettle will play college volleyball after all

Alta Loma senior Taylor Kettle thought her volleyball career was over. She had some good academic schools from which to choose, UC Santa Barbara and Pepperdine among them. And she had planned on going to Santa Barbara.

But the only schools interested in her for volleyball were some smaller ones and she preferred to go with the premier academic school if she had to choose.

“I’m not going to be an Olympic volleyball player so it was really all about my future,” says Kettle, who plans to major in physical therapy. “I wanted to play volleyball but it didn’t look like it was going to happen.”

Then at the last minute Troy (Ala.) came into the mix. It had another setter bail so the Trojans suddenly had some scholarship money available and was in need of a setter.

A coach had seen Kettle play in a club tournament in Las Vegas with Rancho Valley. So she was on their radar even though she may not have known it. She went for a visit last week and the rest is history.

“It was completely unexpected and out of the blue,” she said. “When I went there I absolutely loved everything. You never know how things are going to work out but I’m very happy to be able to continue to play.”

Kettle helped the Braves to the best season in school history. She had 774 assists, 115 digs, 57 total blocks and 34 service aces as the Braves won a Southern Section (Division 4AA) title and advanced to the Division 4 state championship match before falling to North representative Sonora.

Kettle is the fifth player from this year’s team to continue her playing career in college. The others are Aeryn Owens (Cal State Northridge), Amy Armstrong (Cal State San Bernardino), Kristen Sanchez (University of La Verne) and Breanna Golsch (Cal State Dominguez Hills).

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Cindy Gurney formally named head of Alta Loma program

The Alta Loma volleyball program has a familiar figure in sole charge as Cindy Gurney has been appointed the Braves head coach.

Gurney had helped Tishanna Pope with coaching duties the last several years but Pope has stepped aside to spend time with her husband and infant daughter.

Gurney headed the program from 1982 to 2006. She came back in 2009 to assist Pope and took the time off in between to support her daughter who was then playing at Cal Poly Pomona.

Gurney taking over was a no-brainer, although the school had to go the regular route of flying the position to any other in-house candidates.

The Braves graduated eight players from a team that won league and CIF Southern Section titles and finished as state runner-up.
Gurney expects her returning players to be able to defend the league title since its underclassmen teams both won league titles.

“After that I don’t know far we’ll go,” she said. “It depends on your draw and whether you have injuries and you have to see home much your young players improve.”

Gurney added that Caitlin Hall, another assistant on the staff will remain and help her. Two other coaches who handled the underclassmen teams have left.

Gurney, who was Pope’s coach when she played at Alta Loma, also teaches math at the school.”

“We had to go through the proper channels but she was obviously the person for the job,” athletic director Brett Proctor said. “No one knows more about this program or cares more than she does.”

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Alta Loma volleyball standouts make it official

The Alta Loma volleyball team had quite the season. The Braves won a Mt. Baldy League title, cruised to a Southern Section title (Division 4AA) and went all the way to the state championship match.

Three of the key figures from that team signed their letters of intent today, making their college decision official.

Two will be staying close to home and one will be in commuter distance. Middle blocker Amy Armstrong will play at Cal State San Bernardino, a prominent player on the national scene at the Division II level.

Libero Kristen Sanchez will play at University of La Verne, which has national Elite Eight  appearances at the Division III level.

Outside hitter Breanna Golsch will move on to Cal State Dominguez Hills, which plays in the same conference as Cal State San Bernardino and another local, Cal Poly Pomona.

A fourth player, Aeryn Owens, signed in February with Cal State Northridge.

Good luck in the next step of your career girls.

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Alta Loma’s Kirsten Sanchez commits to La Verne

Alta Loma High School volleyball standout Kristen Sanchez (center) wanted to choose a college relatively close to home. She did just that. committing to University of La Verne today.

Sanchez was team captain and starting libero for a Braves team that won Mt. Baldy League, Southern Section (Division 4AA)  and Southern California Regional (Division 4) titles. The Braves (36-3) also finished at state runner-up, losing the title match to Sonora 3-2.

She tallied a team-high 459 digs and was a first-team All-Inland Valley selection.

Sanchez also considered Vanguard and Concordia-Irvine as well as Grand Canyon University (Ariz).

“It felt like a good fit,” she said. “It was close to home and I really liked the team.”

Sanchez has a twin brother T.J. who will also be attending the school. The two went to a campus orientation together. They wanted to got to schools close together but it worked out they liked the same one.

The two are close. T.J. is known to the school’s volleyball enthusiasts as the guy who dressed up as the banana and led the cheering section at the team’s matches.

The University of La Verne volleyball team, coached by Jenna Panatier, went 20-7 last season. The Leopards advanced to the postseason but lost a first round NCAA Division III match to Trinity (Tex.) 3-0 at Cal Lutheran University.

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Alta Loma’s Amy Armstrong chooses a local college

Amy Armstrong

Amy Armstrong of Alta Loma wanted to stay close to home for college and she was lucky to find a premier program in commuter distance.

The 6-foot-1 middle blocker has committed to Cal State San Bernardino a dominant competitor  in the California Collegiate Athletic Conference and a figure on the national scene under veteran coach Kim Cherniss.

It is a perfect fit.

Cherniss and assistant Danny Scott have done an outstanding job of developing players at the middle blocker position and have churned out several All-Americans there. They had two there last year in Tori May and Brenna McIntosh. May has graduated while McIntosh will be a senior.

Cherniss has also been good at maintaining a local presence on her roster. Yes she’ll go out and get that top recruit from elsewhere but there are always local players on her roster as well.

Armstrong was a key player for a Braves team that is coming off its best season in school history. Alta Loma (36-3) easily won the Mt. Baldy League and cruised to a Southern Section title. They went on to the state playoffs and marched all the way to the state title game before being dealt a 3-2 loss.

Armstrong, a first-team Mt. Baldy League selection, registered 171 kills and a team-high 109 blocks.

She was also considering Cal State East Bay and New Mexico-Highlands, both Division II schools.

 

 

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Tishanna Pope resigns as Alta Loma volleyball coach

Alta Loma High School volleyball coach Tishanna Pope has resigned, citing family.

Pope has directed the Braves volleyball program the last eight years and boasts a career record of 148-119 in that span.

The past season was the best in school history as the Braves  went 36-3, cruised to a Mt. Baldy League title, won the Southern Section title (Division 4AA) and advanced to the state championship match before falling to Sonora in a five-set thriller.

It was the deepest run for any team in Chaffey Joint Unified School District history.

She was the Daily Bulletin’s Coach of the Year and the CIF nominee for Coach of the Year in volleyball.

Pope and husband Dubin had their first child in September, a daughter named Naomi.

“I can’t say it was a tough decision but it wasn’t necessarily either,” she said. “Volleyball has been part of my life for so long. But this seemed like the right time.”

Pope, a 1998 graduate of Alta Loma, also teaches math at the school and will remain in that role.

The job will have to be flown inside the school district first. The logical successor would be Cindy Gurney, who coached the team with Pope last year and headed the program from 1982 until Pope took over in 2006.

She returned to be by Pope’s side in 2011.

Pope also coaches club ball with Pacific Juniors but hasn’t decided if she’ll continue in that capacity.

 

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Alta Loma’s Breanna Golsch chooses a college

Alta Loma High School senior volleyball standout Breanna Golsch has committed to NCAA Division II Cal State Dominguez Hills.

She visited the school earlier this week and liked what she saw.

“I liked the coach and I got a good feeling from all the players,” she said.

Golsch was team captain for a Braves team that just recorded the best season in school history. They went 36-3, winning Mt. Baldy League and Southern Section (Division 4AA) honors.

The Braves also fared well in the state portion of the playoffs, advancing all the way to the state championship before falling to Sonora in a five-set match.

Golsch was third on the team in kills with 256. She also recorded 66 aces, 44 total blocks and 191 digs.

She was a first team All-League and second-team All-Inland Valley selection.

Golsch plans to major in secondary education.

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Alta Loma girls soccer team could mimic success of volleyball

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The Alta Loma girls soccer team is good, really good. It is ranked No. 1 in Division 5 so others outside of the Inland Empire know the talent on that team.

The Braves dropped down from Division 1 to Division 5 since they moved from the competitive Baseline to the not-competitive-at-all Mt. Baldy League. (Why they move entire leagues instead of teams is a worthy debate for another day.)

The Alta Loma volleyball had its best season in school history the past fall, cruising to a league title then winning a Southern Section Division 4AA title just as convincingly.

Then came a run in the state portion of the playoffs. They finished as runner-up, winning the Southern Region and losing to North Region champ Sonora in the state title tilt.

The volleyball team was third in the Baseline last year before making the move but the girls soccer team WAS the Baseline champion a year ago. So its chances to win a Southern Section title  are pretty good. And they dropped all the way to Division 5, rather than 4.

So the biggest task for coach Ben Davies, much like it was for volleyball coach Tishanna Pope,  is to keep his team focused and steadily improving when it is playing inferior competition.

Playing some good non-league foes is a good start. And the Braves played Rancho Cucamonga and Los Osos, among others. That’s good from a competition aspect and good that they have kept the rivalry going.

We’ll see if the Braves can get the ultimate prize just as the volleyball team did. One thing is for sure, its shaping up to be a good year for the school in many sports.

 

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Alta Loma volleyball coach Tishanna Pope honored

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Alta Loma volleyball Tishanna Pope is among the 2014 Southern Section Fall Coaches of the Year honored by the California Coaches’ Association.

These winners will be submitted to the state as finalists for the California Coaches’ Association State Coaches of the Year announced in June of 2015.

Pope, a graduate of Alta Loma, has been at the school since 2003, the last nine years as the head coach. As the head coach, her teams have gone 148-119.

The Braves are coming off the best season in school history, having gone 36-3, winning the Southern Section title and advancing all the way to the Southern California finals in Division 4.

Pope already earned CIF-SS honors as Coach of Year in Division 4AA

Other honorees:
Luis Flores: Montebello boys water polo
Tyree Cruz: Ventura High School boys cross country
Ken Sayles: Capistrano Valley girls cross country
Matt Logan Corona Centennial football
Ann McClung: Notre Dame High School girls golf
Brian Ricker: Corona Del Mar girls tennis
Jim Brumm: Foothill, Santa Ana boys water polo

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