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Prep volleyball: Former Solon Springs standouts, sisters return as coaches

Head coach Ciara Simenson and assistant coach Salann Malone are getting ready for their first postseason at the helm for the Eagles.

Solon Springs head volleyball coach Ciara Simenson, left, and her sister and assistant coach Salann Malone, right, cheer a point from the bench during a recent Eagles home match
Solon Springs head volleyball coach Ciara Simenson, left, and her sister and assistant coach Salann Malone, right, cheer a point from the bench during a recent Eagles home match. Simenson was the Superior Telegram Volleyball Player of the Year in 2005 and Malone was the Superior Telegram Volleyball Player of the Year in 2008.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram
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SOLON SPRINGS — Two familiar faces have returned to the Solon Springs Eagles, but now they are on the bench a bit more.

Sisters Ciara Simenson and Salann Malone have decided to coach at their alma mater this season. Ciara was an assistant under former head coach Melanie Gehl but has moved into the head coach's position.

Salann received the news while she was living in Florida and was more than happy to come home and help her sister.

“I wasn’t able to do it (coach) in Florida, and I heard she was taking over, and I’ve always wanted to coach and you can’t do any better than with your sister for the first time," Salann said and added, “I love doing it with Ciara because it reminds me of when we were in high school going at it on the court.”

Standout athletes

Both women earned the Superior Telegram Volleyball Player of the Year award: Ciara in 2005 and Salann in 2008. Volleyball may have been their favorite sport, but they also played basketball and softball.

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“My mom used to joke and call me 'Me 2' because anything my sister did I had to do,” Salann said.

She did just that, as the sisters made many Telegram All-Area teams throughout the years. However, Ciara remains the only athlete, boy or girl, to be named to every All-Area team she played for in all four years of high school.

“I loved all three sports; I don’t know why my passion for volleyball superseded the others… I enjoyed all of them — athletics was a way of life,” Ciara said.

Solon Springs head volleyball coach Ciara Simenson, right, cheers with her sister and assistant coach Salann Malone, center, as Isabel Molina (17) enters the game
Solon Springs head volleyball coach Ciara Simenson, right, cheers with her sister and assistant coach Salann Malone, center, as Isabel Molina (17) enters the game during a recent Eagles home match. Simenson was the Superior Telegram Volleyball Player of the Year in 2005 and Malone was the Superior Telegram Volleyball Player of the Year in 2008.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

Salann recalled hitting a volleyball back and forth, or peppering, with Ciara nonstop when they were kids.

"I remember getting our first pair of knee pads for Christmas and our volleyball that she and I used to 'pepper' repeatedly, all day every day because we wanted to be good and we weren’t going to do anything that would stop us from being good,” Salann said.

In fact, Salann recently asked Ciara if she remembered their record high in a row. Ciara said no.

"We got 225 in a row," Salann said.

The work they did off the court translated onto the court. In her senior season, Ciara recorded 415 digs and added on 198 kills with 80 aces. Two years later, Salann recorded 477 kills during her senior year. She also averaged nearly one ace per game with 72 total to go along with 50 blocks and 137 digs.

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After their senior seasons both sisters went on to play at the TourneySport USA Hawaii Classic Volleyball National Championships in Honolulu where they had the opportunity to play in front of scouts.

Coaching collaboration

Physically, the sisters are different heights and played different positions, which has helped in their coaching careers. Salann was a 6-foot hitter, compared to her older sister who was about 5-foot-6. Their differences are something Eagles senior Kyra Latvala thinks has helped the team a lot.

“They are a bit extra sometimes, but they listen to each other, and I think they mesh well because of their relationship ... Salann is taller so that helps us out a lot in practicing how to get kills or go for blocks,” Latvala said.

Ciara has come to appreciate the different things her sister can assist with. “It’s been less stressful... We both have our specialties and it's nice to know I have someone with me that I can trust 100%.”

However, they're still sisters and sometimes their sibling rivalry shines through. When those moments happen, Ciara said, "We both want the same thing, you have to figure out whose way is the better way to get there.”

Salann agreed.

“I remember in high school having to sit in a locker room with Ciara while our coaches were yelling at us to put our sisterhood behind us,” Salann said.

But as adults, Ciara and Salann have learned to hash out their differences in a more mature way.

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“When we get to a scenario that we don’t agree on, we really have to talk it out like we did in high school but in a different adult way now,” Salann said.

Both women planned to coach after college. Ciara started right after high school helping with a youth volleyball program through Solon and has continued to move up. Salann started early as well, playing volleyball at the University of Wisconsin-Superior while helping with a club volleyball team until she moved to Florida.

The Eagles are currently 6-7 headed into their last game of the season against Lac Courte Oreille (1-7) Thursday, Oct. 13. They are seeded seventh in the WIAA Division 4 Regionals and will play No. 10 Butternut (7-12) at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 18.

Ciara said she's looking to see leadership and commitment from her younger players as they begin postseason play. From the upperclassmen, Ciara hopes they set the tone for the team so the underclassmen can look to them as examples.

"I feel confident that we will play with passion and drive during playoffs," she said.

Jeffrey McClure is a student at the University of Wisconsin-Superior. He contributes to the Superior Telegram as a freelance reporter.
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