1,000 career digs. Two-time all-state player. Number three player in the Metro. All these accomplishments belong to senior Aly Gurtiza, but according to her teammates and coaches, there is so much more to her as a player and a friend.
Gurtiza started playing volleyball in fourth grade, and developed a love for the sport as she started playing club. “I really enjoy the relationships that I make with all my teammates. I’m still friends with all my past teammates, and then my current teammates. And just it’s really fun, I just enjoy getting to do it every day,” Gurtiza said.
One of those teammates is her best friend, senior Ashley Briese. Briese and Gurtiza have been friends since seventh grade, and said they were so similar that they inevitably clicked together. “She is always there for me no matter what. On and off the court. She always picks me up and helps me be the best person I can be,” Briese said.
Coach Jeniffer Morgan said that Gurtiza not only pushes Briese, but the entirety of the team. “She leads by example, I think she’s helped the whole team get better defensively, because they know if they don’t go for it, they’re there. Because Aly will literally kill herself to get to a ball,” Morgan said. “And if someone else doesn’t get to the second touch, they don’t want to let that effort go wasted.”
Teammate, senior middle Abby Massengill, said that Gurtiza’s best attribute is her effort. “It’s kind of rare to find someone putting a ton of effort in during practice, and then also games, obviously. It’s just insane. I mean, she’s always going after the ball 100% of the time,” Massengill said.
Gurtiza’s effort on the court has caused Morgan and assistant coach Mendy Edwards to add a statistic to their game stats for covered balls. Getting covered balls up, Morgan said, “gives us another chance to score so she makes our hitters better and gives them more opportunities.”
Gurtiza is not only great at covering blocked balls, in fact, her consistency in serve-receive situations has helped her team in a similar way. “Defense gets overlooked. Everybody looks at the big hitters and the big setters. And a lot of times they’re like, ‘Oh, no, they’re a good passer.’ I think some of the work she does is underrated. But when you watch her dig balls, I mean, she just commands the court,” Morgan said.
One thing Gurtiza has gotten better at in her time on varsity, according to Massengill, is her leadership skills. “She’s a quiet presence,” Morgan said, “just by giving the effort she…makes her teammates better, because they want to work hard…She just sets a really good example.”
With her 1,000th dig on Tuesday, Sept. 29, Gurtiza added another accomplishment to her growing list. Briese said, “It’s kind of weird that other people see her as such a great volleyball player because to me, she’s just my best friend. So her successes, I feel like are my successes. I get really excited for her.”