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04/06/2022 12:00 AM

Kirla Earns Award for His Grit on the Court

Senior Zach Kirla earned the Sten Spinella Toughness Award with the Valley Regional boys’ basketball team this winter. Photo courtesy of Chris LeQuire

Zach Kirla dedicated himself to basketball at a young age, and his love of the sport has continued to grow as the years have unfolded. Zach’s passion for the court resulted in him earning a major accolade with the Valley Regional boys’ basketball team as a senior this year.

Zach played all over the floor for the Warriors during the 2022 season and was described by Head Coach Kevin Woods as the toughest player on the squad. Zach has enjoyed shooting hoops from the second that he set foot on the court as a youngster.

“I’ve been playing basketball for almost my whole life. I started in 2nd grade. I was just put into it like most parents had their kids do at that age, and I’ve loved it ever since,” says Zach. “My favorite aspect is how easy it is to pick up a ball and start playing. It doesn’t matter where or when. You can just get a ball and play.”

Zach feeds off of his teammates’ energy as they all compete their hardest on the hardwood. For Zach, there is no better moment when he comes up with a big play to make a difference for the Warriors in a tightly contested matchup.

“I love seeing the passion and heart that my team has for the sport and being able to help them get better and keep playing,” Zach says. “Even though I’m not seen as one of the best players on the team, I work hard enough to compete and make others on the team better thanks to Coach Woods being there to help push me.”

Zach helped Valley Regional notch 11 victories while qualifying for the Shoreline Conference Tournament and the Division IV State Tournament this year. At the end of the season, Coach Woods presented Zach with the Sten Spinella Toughness Award for the senior’s gritty performance with the Warriors.

“Zach is an amazing young man who is an incredible asset to our team. He values the team first and did everything possible to help the team prepare to play our best,” says Woods. “When Zach played in games, he would always contribute in some way, whether it was a rebound, defensive deflection, a steal, or a hustle play. Zach is gritty and never gives up, no matter what the situation is.”

Zach credits Coach Woods for helping him realize his potential as a basketball player. Whether it’s on or off the court, Zach knows that Woods is always there for him.

“I have a strong relationship with my head coach,” says Zach. “He pushes me to work hard and get better every day at practice and I’m very grateful for him.”

In addition to playing basketball, Zach has also been rowing for the past seven years and is currently a senior captain in the Valley Regional crew program. Zach got his start in rowing with the Blood Street Sculls based out of Old Lyme.

“My favorite thing about rowing is being able to go out on the water and compete at a high level,” Zach says. “I also enjoy being able to help others find a love for the sport. That has been a huge part of my life and will continue to be a big part in my future. Some of my fondest memories as a rower came in meeting people from the places we go and row and building strong connections with people I probably would never meet without the sport.”

Zach recently committed to continue his rowing career at Marietta College in Ohio. Zach works hard at his craft and has spent many hours in the gym to get to the level he’s currently at.

“Getting better at a sport like crew requires a great amount of work. For me, it’s all about being consistent in my routines and going out on the water as much and for as long as I possibly can,” says Zach. “I also go to the gym alongside practices and have a rowing machine at home. Playing basketball also has helped me with my endurance. As for college, I’m very excited to get down there and work. I plan on majoring in international business while I’m there.”

Zach feels proud of the effort that he and his Valley basketball teammates put forth throughout the winter season. Now, Zach is excited to begin his spring campaign with his fellow rowers in the Warriors’ crew.

“Overall, I am very proud of our team and the players on it who I have played with my whole life. I can’t thank them enough for the memories I made playing with them,” Zach says. “As for rowing season, I can’t wait to get our season started and see what some of our new rowers can do.”