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All for fun

Mike Sciacca

Sarah Salem went into last weekend’s Orange County High School

Volleyball All-Star games with a mission to do one just thing -- have

fun.

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The Laguna Beach High senior did accomplish just that but, in the

process, she managed to steal the spotlight.

It’s something typical of the gregarious, 6-foot-2 middle

blocker/outside hitter, whose dominating play is hard to miss.

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Salem starred both offensively and defensively to help lead the South

squad past the North in three games, 25-20, 25-20, 17-15, in the 26th

annual event held at Edison High in Huntington Beach.

For her efforts, the 18-year-old was selected the girls’ MVP. Her

trophy came in the form of a volleyball signed by the other girls and

coaches participating in the All-Star match.

“I was completely surprised,” she said of the honor. “I heard them

announce my name over the loud speaker and wondered, ‘what did I do?. It

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was a great honor.”

Salem said she approached the match -- her final high school athletic

event -- with the intent of having a good time and playing on a South

team with other girls she normally competes against.

Her winning the All-Star MVP award capped a high school volleyball

career that was born, somewhat awkwardly, her freshman year.

Salem was a tall and skilled athletic youngster, but had never played

volleyball. During her first year at Laguna Beach High she said she was

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recruited by a few people associated with the girls’ volleyball program

who had encouraged her to come join the team.

One of those offering encouragement was Coach Shawn Patchell.

“Sarah probably has been the most athletically dominant player that

I’ve had,” he said. “She is very aggressive and that has enabled her to

have a great career here at the school.

“She’s fiery on the court and just a nice, great kid to be around. She

has grown tremendously since that freshman year.”

Salem played varsity ball for Patchell for three years. As a freshman,

she was called up to the varsity for CIF.

As a junior and senior she led the team in kills and during those

years was either first or second on the team in blocks.

She ended her high school career with consecutive MVP honors in the

Pacific Coast League.

The well-earned accolades are a far cry from that first day on the

volleyball court as a freshman, Salem recalls.

“They saw a very tall girl when they recruited me, but I was very

raw,” she explained. “I didn’t really care for volleyball at first but

once I got into it, I really, really enjoyed it.”

Salem also played varsity basketball and track and field -- she

competed in the long, high and triple jumps, as a freshman, but gave up

both sports to concentrate solely on volleyball.

She would stay after team practices, she said, to work on her game

even further.

It was during that same year that she joined the Saddleback Valley

Volleyball Club, of which she still is a member. Two of her club

teammates, Melissa Zapian and Heather Quinn, were her South teammates in

the county All-Star game.

“I have worked hard to learn the game of volleyball, but could not

have done it without the help of Coach Patchell and my club coaches,

George Carey Jr. and Ki Yi,” Salem said. “My coaches have really helped

me in my development as a player.”

College coaches also took note of Salem’s dominance.

She was heavily recruited on the NCAA Division I trail and said she

had narrowed her list of the schools she’d like to attend to

Northwestern, Georgia Tech, Duke, Arizona, Long Beach State, and UC

Berkeley.

“I narrowed down my choices to schools that were strong in academics

as well as in its volleyball program,” she explained. “It was a thrill to

be recruited by so many schools.”

In the end, Salem, a 4.0 student, selected Duke University. She

received a full academic ride and departs for the Durham, N.C. campus on

Aug. 8.

“Duke did a really nice job of recruiting Sarah,” Patchell said. “She

is going to be a very good collegiate player.”


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