Talented Salem A Major Force For HHS Volleyball Team
“Coco’’ Salem is a force at outside hitter for Holliston’s volleyball team. Photo by Jeff Adams
By KEN HAMWEY
Staff Sports Writer
Colette “Coco’’ Salem has been a dynamic volleyball player at Holliston High for four years.
A senior outside hitter, the 5-foot-7 Salem is not only a two-year captain, but she’s also been a Tri Valley League all-star and the Panthers’ leading scorer for the last two seasons. Whether the 18-year-old is competing in the front or the back row, she’s a force. And, her coach (Yoeun Sim) is quick to laud all the attributes that make Salem an all-around top-notch talent.
“When Coco talks, her teammates listen,’’ Sim said. “A vey skilled player, she jumps high, hits hard, is instinctive and has a high volleyball IQ. An effective passer, she’s strong defensively and works hard to strengthen her blocking ability.’’
A club player for nine years, Salem is an aggressive competitor who strives to reach her potential and to have fun. But, at the end of the day, winning is what matters for her.
“I don’t like to lose,’’ she said. “Winning is the result of hard work and lots of effort, and I always feel good after a victory knowing that we all gave 100 percent.’’
Salem’s goals at the start of the season were split into team and individual objectives. At Local Town Pages, not all of them had been achieved, but it’s a good bet that most will become a reality.
“One team goal was for us to play smart, especially when it comes to decision-making,’’ she noted. “I also listed winning the TVL Large Division championship and qualifying for the tourney as other team goals. My individual objectives are to be the team’s leading scorer again and to be name a TVL all-star again. Getting to the tourney is realistic because we practice hard, we have excellent team chemistry and we’ve got experience and depth.’’
The Panthers had a 9-4 record at Local Town Pages deadline and Salem had 103 kills. A senior/sophomore-laden squad, Holliston was in good position to qualify for the tourney.
During Salem’s first two years on the varsity, she gained valuable playoff experience. Holliston lost in the second round in both her freshman and sophomore seasons. During those two years, her approach and her skills improved greatly.
“I’m comfortable at outside hitter,’’ she said. “I like getting kills for points and making blocks. The key to succeed there is to know where the ball is going, adjust to quick transitions, be able to jump high and to communicate. I’m aggressive but I also rely on caution. If a ball isn’t hittable, then it’s better to tip it over the net or get a roll shot. Effective placement on our opponents’ side is always a plus.’’
Salem, nicknamed “Coco’’ by her parents because they called her coco bean as an infant, has high praise for her fellow captains — middle hitter India Adams and outside hitter Sydney Miccile (both seniors)
“India is very energetic,’’ Salem said. “She leads by being vocal and communicative, and she can hit and block effectively. Sydney is a calming presence, always supportive. A good hitter, she knows how to break tension and help players chill out.’’
A native of Holliston, Salem also lauds Sim, her coach who’s now in his second year with the Panthers. “Coach Sim is a very good motivator,’’ she emphasized. “He knows the game and he’s helpful teaching technique. He’s also very passionate about the sport.’’
A student who works hard, Salem knows volleyball will be part of her future but she’s unsure if she’ll continue the sport in college. “I might play if I attend a Division 3 college but I’m leaning on attending Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia,’’ she said. “The school doesn’t have varsity sports but I would keep playing volleyball at the club level.’’
Salem’s best game during her four years at Holliston was last season against rival Ashland. Although the Panthers lost, Salem liked the way her team battled and she was pleased with her effort, especially on defense. “We lost on Senior Night but everyone played a super competitive game,’’ she recalled. “It was intense and we all had fun. I had a decent number of kills and got a few blocks.’’
Rating her lengthy status as a captain and her all-star recognition as a sophomore as “great honors,’’ Salem is acutely aware that it’s hard work that paved the way for those results.
“I’m very honored to be a two-time captain and an all-star as a sophomore,’’ she said. “Being a captain is a tribute to my work ethic, dedication and passion for volleyball. And, being chosen as a league all-star is a credit to my teammates who passed the ball my way. I view being an all-star as a way to impact your team in a positive way.’’
Calling her parents (Tony and Carrie) role models for their support and encouragement, Salem says she’s learned valuable life lessons from her athletic experiences. “Sports have helped me to be resilient and how to overcome adversity,’’ she offered. “At 5-7, I’m short for a hitter, so I have to work hard to overcome that obstacle. I also have learned the value of possessing a strong work ethic.’’
Holliston won four matches last year during the Fall 2 season that included only 10 contests for the Panthers. Salem worked diligently to make that time go smoothly and she’s glad that covid-19 hasn’t forced another abbreviated campaign.
“I tried to help us adhere to all the rules and protocols last season,’’ she said. “Even though we have to wear masks again, this year seems more normal. It’s been a plus for all of us to be vaccinated.’’
Whether it was dealing with covid, or practice or simply helping out with organization, Sim was pleased with Salem’s overall leadership. “Coco made it easier for me to adjust and focus on strategy during matches,’’ he said.
The coach also said that Salem is where the Panthers go “if we need points or need to get on a winning streak.’’
A deep advance in tourney play would be a rewarding way for Colette Salem to wrap up a superb four-year career at Holliston.