Kirsten Ryan is becoming familiar with The Jungle again.
While she once roamed the hardwood as a volleyball player, this time it’s as the new Tokay High volleyball head coach. Ryan takes over for Scott Kyles, who resigned after running the Tokay volleyball program for the last five seasons. According to Tokay High Athletic Director Michael Holst, Kyles stepped down because his daughter is playing volleyball at St. Mary’s, a fellow member of the Tri-City Athletic League.
“It’s fun to be back,” Ryan said.
Ryan has 11 players on this year’s team. Two of those players are returnees in senior outside hitter Kayly Pau, standing at 6-foot-4, and junior outside hitter/libero Grace Polhemus. Both have been starters since they were freshmen.
“We are going to be pretty creative with the girls we have,” said Ryan in terms of the Tigers’ style of play this season. “We’ve got some powerful hitters, but we’re going to be focusing on our defense.”
Ryan speaks highly of Pau, who has had more than a half-dozen, four-year colleges recruiting her.
“She’s definitely bringing her strengths and experience to the team,” “She has a good knowledge of the game, which is going to be very beneficial to our team.”
Last season, Tokay finished with a 17-19 overall record that included a 3-7 mark in the TCAL. Two of the Tigers’ wins came against Lodi, which went winless in league play. Lodi also has a new coach in Chuck Sterni, who led Liberty of Brentwood volleyball teams to league titles and playoff appearances in recent years.
Ryan noted that there are 35 players in the Tokay volleyball program, which includes the junior varsity and freshmen teams.
“We just finished tryouts and started practices this week,” Ryan said. “The girls have great attitudes and they are working hard.”
For the last four years, Ryan has been coaching with the Delta Valley Volleyball Club that is based in Lodi.
Ryan has been a high school volleyball head coach before, but not the last four seasons. That is because she spent that time watching her daughter, Carlyn, play on the Bear Creek High volleyball teams; Carlyn is a 2018 Bear Creek graduate. This fall, Carlyn enters her second year attending and playing on the Monterey Peninsula College volleyball team.
“I wanted to be able to watch her play,” said Kirsten Ryan of her daughter.
Kirsten Ryan was the Edison High volleyball head coach from 2013-15 seasons. Prior to running the Vikings’ program, Ryan was the Linden High volleyball coach for two seasons.
Ryan works as a teacher at Vista Oaks Charter School. Prior, she worked as a teacher in the Lodi Unified School District for a combined 13 years; a combination of teaching at a school site and substituting.
A 1987 Tokay High graduate, Ryan was known as Kirsten George at that time. She earned a scholarship to attend and play volleyball at Saint Mary’s College in Moraga after graduating from Tokay.
“It’s differently a different perspective,” said Ryan of returning to her alma mater. “I feel very privileged to have played in the 80s.”
Ryan said she’s received support from many people in returning to her alma mater.
“The family is great, the community has been very supportive,” Ryan said.
Grace Celli is the new Galt High volleyball head coach, according to Matthew Silva, the school’s athletic director. Celli takes over for Abby Abarca, who ran the Warriors’ program for only the 2018 season.
Contact Mike Bush at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter: @MBushLodiSports.