Sarah knows resilience

She found out her volleyball team made the Junior Olympics (JO) not once, but twice 一and both times discovered there were issues preventing the team from going. The director of her team left during its second season as JO qualifiers, eventually leading to the team’s disbandment.

Too much to handle? Maybe for an average person, but not for freshman Sarah Stevenson-Cunday.

Stevenson-Cunday was captain for three and a half years for her club team, Top Gun Volleyball, which qualified for JO at the end of regionals in June during both the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 seasons, but the team was unable to attend both times.

In the first season that Top Gun qualified for JO, one of Stevenson-Cunday’s teammates couldn’t attend because she also qualified for the softball JO and couldn’t afford to compete in both sports. Stevenson-Cunday’s coach had a rule that if one teammate can’t compete in the JO, the others shouldn’t compete either.

The team couldn’t go during the second season because one of the other teammates couldn’t afford it.

In 2014, Stevenson-Cunday’s club director left to coach at Texas State University and the team disbanded as a result. Before the team split, Top Gun played one last game at the Disney Summer Soiree in July 2014.

“[I was] really upset; those girls were my family. I mostly hang out with guys so my girl time was with them. They were like my sisters,” Stevenson-Cunday said.

Stevenson-Cunday had to face a break-up with her second family, but that wasn’t the only hardship she faced. She initially practiced at the California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (Cal Poly) facility, but had to switch to a practice location in Citrus due to the shutdown of the Cal Poly facility.

“It was frustrating because Cal Poly is so much closer for me but I wasn’t that upset about it, it was just harder on my parents,” Stevenson-Cunday said.

In the end, Stevenson-Cunday lost her chance at Junior Olympics. She lost her director. She lost her team. She lost her practice facility.

But even with all these mishaps, Stevenson-Cunday still perseveres: for six days a week, she devotes three hours to volleyball practice. She is a part of the Los Angeles Volleyball Association (LAVA), which competes in the 17-18 age group, and also plays as a setter for Walnut’s varsity girls’ volleyball team.

Why does she persist?

Because she plays with a purpose.

Stevenson-Cunday strives to earn a sports scholarship from University of Florida, University of Texas or Stanford. She also aims to play for the U.S. volleyball team and major in forensic science.

“I plan on getting good grades and excelling throughout high school. If there are hardships I plan on taking them head on and try to overcome them with hard work and dedication,” Stevenson-Cunday said. “I guess that you just have to keep going. To push through even if it doesn’t go your way.”

By Casey Lee, Staff writer

Photo by Sajid Iqbal