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Emerald Sallee is helping lead DCHS volleyball from the back
Sallee focuses on the opponent’s serve during a recent match against White County. - photo by Rio White

Over the past two seasons, one of the key elements of the Dawson County volleyball team’s rise has been its consistency. A player who has shown that attribute is senior libero Emerald Sallee.

Positioned at the back of the team’s formation, her work involves defensive clean-up work that often goes unnoticed — especially compared to the flashiness of the offense. 

But her efforts have been critical in helping the team keep possession and allowing scoring chances to form. 

For Sallee, the position requires intense focus, especially against challenging opponents.

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“Most of the time I get first ball but if a setter gets first ball, I have to be there and be able to set someone,” Sallee said. It’s just about playing good defense, being quick on your feet and [not letting] the ball come to you.”

Another important part of her role on the team has been her communication. In her position, Sallee often has the largest depth of field and can direct her teammates when she is approaching the ball.

“I’m pretty vocal on the court and have learned that when I’m not, people can roll their ankles, we run into each other, and shank balls,” Sallee said. “Being a positive leader [is about saying] ‘good job’ instead of saying ‘don’t take that shot next time.’”

Sallee prepares to receive the ball in a match earlier this season. Her primarily defensive role often involves receiving the opponent's serve. - photo by Rio White

As a senior, she has developed a rapport with experienced offensive players such as Abby Felkai, Kirklyn Porter and Megan Roche.

Along with her role as a communicator, Sallee has developed a leadership position on a team that has a wide range of ages.

"We have been so impressed with her willingness to mentor the younger girls and pour into the future of our program," head coach Tanya Porter said. "Emerald's work ethic drives her to be better than she was the day before. She doesn't mind being coached, she's open to honest constructive critique, and she holds herself accountable."

Sallee has noticed that the team’s overall mindset has improved since last season, with the Lady Tigers having worked on keeping afloat when facing adversity.

Whether in games or at practice, the Lady Tigers have brought an increased intensity to their approach.

“I’m seeing us all have a more positive attitude. When we come to practice we’re ready to go,” Sallee said. “We’re pushing through and putting in the work on the court, [which] I’m really glad to see.”

Throughout the season, Sallee has observed both the team’s overall improvements in skill as well as the growth of individual players. 

With the region tournament happening this week, she is confident that her teammates can bring the team on a deep run. 

“Our team has so much skill from top to bottom. Each player brings something different,” Sallee said. “Felkai will put herself on the ground to get a point, Megan can swing away [and] is a good passer, and Maggie [Allen] is really smart on the court and can see open spots.”

While she may be in her final season as a Lady Tiger, Sallee is just as — if not more — invested in her teammates as she is in her own game. 

"I love watching all of my teammates,” Sallee said. “They’re awesome. I honestly think that this is the most skill our team has ever had.”