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Holliston Coach Cautiously Optimistic About ‘Floating Season’

Sep 29, 2020 10:20AM ● By Ken Hamway

New Holliston volleyball coach Yoeun Sim, who came aboard in June, will likely bring about the positive results he got at Silver Lake and Nauset in Holliston, but not until February, in a “floating season” due to COVID-19.

The coronavirus pandemic has forced high school sports teams to change the way they’ll compete and also when they’ll play. 

Yoeun Sim, who took the reins of Holliston High’s volleyball program in June, was hoping the sport would be on the Panthers’ menu this fall. Unfortunately, he and his players have to wait until February, when some squads will battle in what’s been labeled a “floating season.’’

Athletic directors in the Tri Valley League voted to move volleyball from its usual fall slot to a season that will start on Feb. 22 and conclude on April 25. Sim is disappointed his forces have to wait five months, but he’s glad the MIAA and the Department of Education classified the sport as “moderate risk’’ and allowed it to proceed with modifications.

“I met with our players in late August, and they felt let down,’’ he said. “But, I stressed to remain positive, because no one said that we can’t compete.’’

Sim says he’s “cautiously optimistic’’ about playing in late winter and is hopeful that Holliston will continue to deal with COVID-19 successfully. “We’re hoping to proceed,’’ he emphasized. “There’s no guarantees, because we don’t know how prevalent the virus will be in the future. I feel we’re still in limbo, but I’m cautiously optimistic, because I’ve been told the data in Holliston has been good.’’

The former Nauset Regional coach had been diligently preparing for the fall during the summer months. “It would have been devastating to lose the season,’’ Sim said. “Volleyball has been my passion as a player and a coach. Our captains worked hard running practices during the summer and it would have been difficult to wait a full year to get our program underway.’’

Sim is acutely aware, however, that volleyball is part of a small picture. His prime concern is the big picture — the health and safety of everyone in the nation. “That’s the No. 1 priority,’’ he emphasized. 

Sim’s volleyball background is not only varied, but it’s also intriguing. He spent six years as Silver Lake’s jayvee coach. The Kingston school’s varsity was a solid tourney participant and Sim was a big plus in preparing players for that level. He later applied for a varsity post and was hired at Nauset Regional in Eastham in 2018. 

At Nauset, which includes the towns of Eastham, Wellfleet, Brewster and Truro, he got results, even though they don’t sound very impressive. His two seasons ended with 7-11 and 9-11 records. But, when he arrived at the Cape Cod regional, the Warriors had won only six matches in four years. 

“When I got there, they were struggling,’’ Sim said. “They had trouble getting players out and barely had enough kids to field a team. We won seven matches in our first season and missed the tourney by one game in my second year. When I left, they were able to field varsity, jayvee and freshmen teams.’’

Living in Plainville and traveling to Eastham wasn’t easy, especially with a new son as part of his family. The Holliston job opened, Sim applied and was hired.

As a player, the 5-foot-10 Sim became proficient the old-fashioned way — by working hard. He learned the sport from his father and honed his skills on a court in Attleboro.

“My parents are from Cambodia, and I was born in the Philippines,’’ he noted. “We lived in Rochester, N.Y., and Danbury, Conn., then moved to Attleboro when I was  eight. At Attleboro High, my only varsity sport was basketball.’’

Sim’s interest in volleyball began during his sophomore year at New England Tech in Warwick, R.I., where he was studying auto mechanics. “My dad was a quality player, and he competed with friends at an Attleboro park (Balfour River Walk),’’ Sim said. “I could jump, so I started to play and learn the game. Eventually, I got involved with tournament volleyball.’’

Now 39, Sim, who was an outside hitter, played up and down the East Coast for 13 years, traveling as far as Oklahoma. His top thrill was winning a four-on-four tourney in Philadelphia. “The team from Philly had two Division 1 players from Temple and Rutgers, but we won and took home the $5,000 prize,’’ Sim recalled.

After eight years as a high school coach, Sim knows the importance of setting goals and how to build a program. “At Holliston, our objectives are to qualify for the tourney, compete for the TVL Large Division championship and to make sure our players develop a strong work ethic,’’ he emphasized. “I’m inheriting a program that’s been traditionally strong the last few years.’’ 

When the floating season starts, his Holliston’s players will quickly understand Sim’s style. “I hold players accountable,’’ he said. “I tend to be easy-going, but rules matter. I can adjust and be flexible whenever necessary. And, the attributes I want in players are a positive attitude, leadership ability, a coachable nature, a high volleyball IQ and athleticism.’’

Sim’s captains are seniors Sophia Loricco (libero) and Katie Ream (right-side hitter) and junior Colette Salem (outside hitter). Loricco and Salem played for Sim at the club level. 

“Sophia is a good leader who could be one of the best liberos in the state,’’ he said. “She’s got a high volleyball IQ. Colette is an all-around, hard-hitter who’s versatile. Both girls have lots of drive. Katie is positive, competitive, and a good team player who’s a vocal leader. The captains kept me updated on their summer work and were pleased with the turnout.’’

Sim and his Panthers will be adhering to all the guidelines that the MIAA has attached to volleyball in the COVID-19 era. They will be socially distancing in practices, using hand-sanitizing lotion, avoiding handshakes and maintaining 3-6 feet distancing on the bench.

Although volleyball protocol has undergone change since the pandemic arrived, Sim’s preferences for building strong teams hasn’t. “I’ve always stressed defense,’’ he emphasized. “My teams are aggressive and the players focus on passing and hard hitting. We rely on being scrappy and athletic.’’

Holliston athletic director Matt Baker is glad Sim is on the Panthers’ staff. “We're really excited to have him on board,’’ said Baker. “He's a very experienced, passionate coach with a great vision for the future of our program. He has the determination and dedication to take our teams to the next level.’’  

If the commute to Nauset wasn’t so long and time-consuming, Sim likely would still be on the Warriors’ staff. He invigorated that program and had it moving in the right direction.

“It was a very difficult decision to leave,’’ he noted. “Leaving good kids hurt, and it took me a month to get over leaving. My family (wife Lowina and son Ryder) comes first, but it was so rewarding the way I was appreciated at Nauset.’’