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Kurnik named Valley League player of the year

All five Warriors starters named all-league

Joe Naiman

Village News Reporter

The Valley League girls basketball coaches selected Fallbrook High School junior Naiya Kurnik as the league's player of the year, and all five of Fallbrook's starters were given all-league designation.

Kurnik was joined on the first team by Juliana Blas. Elley Ahrend was placed on the second team. Claire Nordeen and Liz Villigran received honorable mention accolades.

"I thought that all five of my starters should have been first team or second team," said Fallbrook coach Trae Harrison. "We got them at least honorable mention."

Fallbrook was undefeated in 10 Valley League games. Eight of the Warriors' league wins were by more than 10 points. "There were no close games. No one challenged us," Harrison said.

Mount Carmel, Ramona, and Valley Center all had 6-4 league records to share second place. Each of those teams had one player on the Valley League first team. Mount Carmel, Ramona, Escondido, and San Pasqual each had a player on the second team.

"Everybody got at least one player," Harrison said.

Fallbrook had three of the 10 players on the first team or second team. The Warriors had an overall record of 23-9 including CIF playoffs. Fallbrook lost in the final of the CIF San Diego Section Division III playoffs and in the final of the CIF Southern California Division 5-AA playoffs.

"It was a great run for the girls in general," Harrison said.

Kurnik, who is a point guard, was a unanimous choice for player of the year. "Nobody questioned it. No one even put any other players up," Harrison said.

During Fallbrook's 10 league games Kurnik averaged 18.8 points, 9.6 rebounds, 3.6 steals, and 3.1 assists per game. "No one had any answers for her," Harrison said. "She's the heart and soul of the team. Everything goes through her."

The 2020-21 season was Harrison's first as Fallbrook's head coach. "We're growing together," he said.

Harrison built his relationships with his players as the season progressed, and he learned more about them. "We kind of understand each other. We're getting better," he said.

Kurnik was also named to the Valley League first team for 2019-20. "She's a one-of-a-kind talent," Harrison said. "She's fun to watch."

Blas averaged 10.3 points per game during league play. "She's a smaller guard. I definitely have a soft spot for small guards. I was a small guard," said the 5'6" Harrison, who played at Palomar College.

Harrison also appreciated Blas' performance on the court. "She had a great year," Harrison said.

Blas was absent for part of the pre-league season, so she lost her starting berth. Harrison wasn't going to deprive one of the five starters of that status just because Blas returned, which made Blas a substitute.

"She made it tough every day," Harrison said. "She had to play."

Eventually her merits returned Blas to being on the court for the opening tipoff. "She earned it quick," Blas said. "We had to put her back in the starting lineup."

Ahrend did not play in the Warriors' first two league games but averaged 10.5 points per game in the other eight league contests.

"Everybody else voted her in," Harrison said. "They voted Elley in for her scoring ability."

Ahrend received honorable mention Valley League recognition for the 2019-20 season.


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