Alta Loma volleyball team looks to defend title with new cast

The Alta Loma High School volleyball team had that magical run last year that a coach usually only dreams of.

The Braves went 33-3, cruised to the Mt. Baldy League title, won a Southern Section CIF title in Division 4AA and finished as the STATE runner-up. It was the deepest run by any Chaffey Joint Unified School District team in history . . . in any sport.

But the Braves graduated eight of the 10 players so they will be hard-pressed to repeat that run. Does the new squad feel the pressure to defend that feat? Not really.

“The only pressure they feel is what they put on themselves to be good,” says coach Cindy Gurney, who is taking the reigns as the lone coach after sharing billing with Tishana Pope who resigned. “They realized that was a once in a lifetime team and run that probably won’t happen again.”

The two holdovers from that team are outside hitter Gabrielle Oddo and middle blocker Kylie Szczepanksi, both seniors.

The hardest person to replace is always the setter. The Braves will run a 6-2 with freshman Cassidy Gallahan and sophomore Cecelia White sharing the duties.

Among the other newcomers Gurney is hoping will pick up the slack offensively is junior Jada Sharpe, a standout on the junior varsity last season.

“Our goal is win the league and play well in the preseason and that will hopefully set us up with a good seed and draw for the playoffs,” Gurney said. “We have some younger players who have a lot of potential.”

Gurney says not much has changed from a coaching standpoint. Not only did she coach with Pope, but Caitlyn Hall, who was on the staff last year as well, has returned.

Most of the players from that team went on and will be playing in college. An update on where they are all at. Most are relatively close to home:

Aeryn Owens, Cal State Northridge
Amy Armstrong, Cal State San Bernardino
Breanna Golsch, Cal State Dominguez Hills
Kristen Sanchez, University of La Verne
Taylor Kettle, Troy (Ala.)

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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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