Salzano an Honorable Mention All-New England Athlete for Hopkins
Athletes can go through many athletic endeavors in their youth, and eventually, they begin to identify the sports that most resonate with them. This was the case for Ava Salzano, who discovered a natural gift she had on both the volleyball and lacrosse circuits, and she has excelled on both ever since.
The Guilford native has been a member of the Hopkins Day School volleyball team for the last two seasons. This past fall as a sophomore, Ava had a standout campaign for the Hilltoppers, helping Hopkins to finish with an 11-6 record.
Additionally, Ava earned a prestigious honor individually for her performance on the court. In just her third year playing the sport, she was named an Honorable Mention All-New England athlete.
Being new to the sport of volleyball, Ava didn’t expect to achieve everything she did, but the dedication and work ethic she’s shown allowed her to stand proudly when she saw her name on that list.
“I'm very proud to have achieved an Honorable Mention All-New England, considering I never thought it was possible starting the sport so late,” says Ava. “I'm most proud of not the achievement itself, but the amount of work I've put in to get there.”
Ava first began playing volleyball in eighth grade. She initially gained an interest in the sport in seventh grade, when her gym teacher, Sean Chmielewski, told her that she should try out for the team the following season. As soon as she joined the team at Hopkins, she knew she had the tools to be able to succeed, particularly because of the coaches and mentors she had in front of her.
“Once I made varsity at Hopkins freshman year, I felt I could truly excel with the right help and dedication from my coaches,” Ava says. “I wouldn't be where I am as a volleyball player, or even as an individual today, without my coaches. You can tell how much passion Coach Dina has in her coaching, and how much she wants you to succeed. She's not like a “going through the motions” kind of coach, she's a thorough and technical coach, who shows dedication to her players. Coach Sheena has always been there to remind me and my teammates to keep our heads up and remember who we are as a team, because with focus and determination, we can play to the best of our ability. As a whole, both coaches strive for success for their players, which is how I was able to achieve such recognition.”
Preaching perseverance, even through the hard times, is something Ava’s coaches have instilled in her and her fellow court mates over the last two years, and Ava believes it has helped her to keep a positive mindset and constantly continue to improve her game.
“One general thing that I believe led to this recognition is the amount of improvement since last season. I cannot recall any specific stats I think contributed, but I do remember a talk Coach Dina had with the team about dedication after our game against Greens Farms Academy, a team we have struggled to beat, and sometimes even come close to beating. She emphasized the importance of dedication and team spirit my captain, PJ Fitzsimonds, and I had that game, which got us closer than we ever could've thought to winning each set. The most important thing that game was keeping our heads high, and being proud of the things we had achieved.”
It was the influence of a family member that initially drew Ava’s interest in enrolling at Hopkins as her high school of choice. Her sister, Leah, raved about her experience at the school academically, and Ava wanted that same experience of strong academics mixed with athletics.
“I would've decided to play volleyball wherever I ended up going to school,” Ava says. “But my choice to enroll at Hopkins was based on my older sister, Leah, and her previous experience at the school, where she gained so much experience and knowledge. I originally thought that was an experience I wanted for myself, which was mainly for the academic benefits. However, I was pleasantly surprised to have found a community of coaches and teammates who grew my love for the sport.”
Volleyball isn’t the only sport that Ava excels in. She’s also been an impactful player on the lacrosse team at Hopkins, which is coached by Kristen Wich. While she doesn't have the most varsity experience, Wich notes that Ava displays a level of instant competitiveness every time she steps foot on the field, and her abilities are limitless.
“Ava is a gifted athlete and, despite not being the most experienced lacrosse player on the field, you can't help but watch her with a sense of awe and appreciation for her raw talent,” says Wich. “She moves towards the goal with a quickness and ease that is hard to defend. I know she will become a dominant goal scorer for our program over the next three years. More importantly, Ava is a wonderful person to coach. She is hard-working, inquisitive, positive, and committed to her team.”
As Ava basks in the glory that comes with achieving so many accolades on the volleyball court, she also looks forward to a spring season full of more accomplishments in lacrosse. Ultimately, she knows her hard work and commitment will continue to get her places, no matter what she sets her mind to in the future.
“The work I put in to get where I am now in volleyball consisted of extra time after practice, both in school and offseason, as well as with and without my coaches,” Ava explains. “My coaches have taught me the importance of “no-ball work,” which is a part of my practice outside the gym. Overall, I take the advice my coaches give to me and utilize it in a thoughtful way, which allows me to get in so many hours of work that is effective and valuable.”