Sarah Salem went into last weekend’s Orange County High School
Volleyball All-Star games with a mission to do one just thing -- have
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.
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
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
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
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
“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
“Duke did a really nice job of recruiting Sarah,” Patchell said. “She
is going to be a very good collegiate player.”