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Ms. Elina Salomaki
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Cell Phone #: 00358415053654
Worldly-wise Salomaki leads idyllic volleyball life
By Bruce Brown, December, 2015
That’s just fine with former UL Ragin’ Cajun Elina Salomaki, who is still playing top flight international volleyball some 10 years after her last match for the Cajuns.
She’s with a team in Spain, the latest stop on a journey that has included action with the national team in her native Finland as well as an important stop in Germany.
The lithe leaper is also living on Tenerife, one of the Canary Islands, west of Morocco in the Atlantic Ocean.
Doing what you love and living in an exotic setting with beaches and breezes â€¦ what’s not to love?
â€œI have wanted to live in Spain,â€ said Salomaki, who has been on Tenerife since early September. â€œIt’s a dream come true for me. I was happy to accept their offer.
â€œI love doing this. I’ve achieved all I wanted, and even more.â€
Salomaki played four years for the national team of Finland â€“ a crucial step for both volleyball and re-uniting with family â€“ and then two years in Germany,
â€œMy coach (in Finland) taught me so much,â€ she said. â€œI found I didn’t feel old. I was young again. That gave me the confidence to play in Germany for two years. That was a turning point for me at age 30.
â€œIt’s a little bit different from college. That was nothing like the pressure you have in the pros. It’s a higher level. There’s more to learn. It inspired me. My second year, we won a bronze medal.
â€œIt was impossible to quit.â€
When Salomaki was growing up in Helsinki, she had early interest in ballroom dancing, track and field, and basketball, in addition to volleyball. At 18, wanderlust struck and she left for Australia for a couple of years.
There she met future UL basketball player Chris Cameron, who encouraged Salomaki to re-kindle her interest in volleyball, and that led to her playing for UL from 2003-05.
Despite struggling team results, Salomaki ranks first in rally-era career attempts (2,737) and No. 3 in career kills (898) at the school, with the No.3 (1,050) and No. 4 (1,037) season attempts in 2004 and 2005.
Those days are miles away and a lifetime ago, although Salomaki keeps in touch.
â€œI made the last homecoming (2014),â€ she said. â€œIt’s always fun to come back, and I’ve had friends visit from Louisiana. I’ve also run into a lot of the players I played against in college.â€
If there was one regret, Salomaki could have used a year off at UL. â€œI was injured my senior year,â€ she said. â€œI’d had shoulder surgery, and it was a struggle to play. I probably should have red-shirted. There was a new team coming in the year after, with a lot of good young players.
â€œWe checked into it, but by then it was one or two games too late. You live and learn.â€
Salomaki stayed after that season, coaching both for the Cajuns and at Comeaux High, and that proved beneficial in the short and long terms.
â€œI learned a lot about the game,â€ she said, â€œand since then I’ve always taken time to coach juniors.â€
She got a late start on the international stage in her sport, and has always had maturity as an ally. Now, on a roster that includes players from Argentina, Senegal, Ukraine and Spain, she has elder statesman status.
â€œI’m mentally tougher now,â€ Salomaki said. â€œThere is always more to learn. You learn to play a lot smarter and to give more for your teammates. The 19-year-olds are so young, with so much to learn.
â€œThe ones who really want to make it are receptive to advice. You can learn so much from everybody. Some mature at a different pace.
â€œWhen I was 19, I had quit playing. There wasn’t anyone to show the way. I was so close to not ever playing again. It was important then to have the support of my family.â€
With two-a-day practices and a lengthy season that culminates with playoffs in April, a veteran like Salomaki knows how to survive.
â€œIt’s a big learning process,â€ she said. â€œI’ve gotten a lot better about eating right. I have to take care of my body.
â€œI also have to take a break and remember to be normal. Wear normal clothes. I have a dog now, and it’s good to take him for walks and clear my mind. I try to find the healthy way.â€
Longevity in volleyball has led to personal and lifestyle choices along the way, but it is clear Salomaki relishes the challenges and opportunities.
â€œAs much as I love volleyball, the biggest thing I’ll remember is all the experiences I’ve had, the people I’ve met and the cultures I’ve experienced,â€ Salomaki said.
â€œYou think about how lucky you are. I’ve learned so much about myself and have grown as a person when faced with different situations.â€
Although she is still immersed in her sport, Salomaki has reached the stage where she ponders her next step in life.
â€œHonestly, I have no idea what I’ll do next,â€ she said. â€œI really don’t know. I have a masters degree in psychology, so that’s an option. I’m so open to going anywhere. It’s more about lifestyle than anything else.
â€œAt one time, I was so concentrated on the national team that there wasn’t time for my boyfriend. I have a new balance now and there’s time for both volleyball and my fiance, although it’s not easy.
â€œI’m not sacrificing as much as before, now that I’ve gotten where I want to be.â€
Volleyball: World traveler Salomaki ends Cajun career
October 21, 2005 –
Elina Salomaki celebrated her 24th birthday on Wednesday, thousands of miles from home but surrounded by her adopted kin in the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajun volleyball program.
When your hometown is Helsinki, Finland, you can’t dash home for every big date on your calendar.
“I get homesick on special days, like birthdays and Christmas,” said Salomaki, the lone senior on the UL roster. “Our Independence Day is Dec. 6, and that’s a big deal at home. I miss that, and I miss my language a lot.
“It’s really hard to learn, and only 6 million people in the world speak Finnish.”
Happily enough, Salomaki adapts well to changes.
A star volleyball player in her homeland, Salomaki last represented Finland in the 2003 European Championships. But it’s been years since she has called that Scandinavian nation home.
She first left home for Australia, where she learned English and met future UL basketball center Chris Cameron – two crucial elements to her eventual arrival in south Louisiana.
Shortly after she got here, UL coach Chris Campbell left for Mississippi University for Women and Salomaki followed – staying for a year before returning to the Cajuns.
Now she’s a senior helping newcomers to understand the challenges ahead.
“I was in Australia for two years,” Salomaki said. “It was kind of awkward at first because I couldn’t speak the language. But it was a motivating thing, too.
“My mom was OK with it. She let me go. I had expected to stay for six months and I stayed for two years. I had a good job, and had no reason to leave until I got the opportunity to go to college.”
By the time she got to Australia, Salomaki was tired of competitive athletics.
“I had traveled a lot, had played for a lot of teams, and I was worn out,” she said. “I did a lot of things in Sydney. I got into coaching and I started to miss it. I couldn’t help it.”
Meeting Cameron helped shape Salomaki’s future.
“I had quit, and Chris kept pushing me to play again,” Salomaki said. “Now we’re both playing our senior years here. Chris is a good friend of mine, and having him here makes me feel at home.”
She also feels a connection with her younger teammates.
“I love the freshmen,” Salomaki said. “They’re like little sisters, and I’m very protective of them. We’re all like sisters. We’re very close.”
Since Salomaki has three sisters, she has a ready frame of reference for that chemistry. And, since she has traveled enough to know, Salomaki is able to compare the cultures she has experienced.
“People in the South are very friendly, the same as in Australia,” Salomaki said. “Finnish people are harder to get to know, but they’re very honest people and they’ll be your friend for life.”
Salomaki came to UL accustomed to the front line, but was converted to an outside hitter and has parlayed that into 1,061 career kills with her usual adaptability.
“I had played the middle for years,” she said. “I was on a really short team, and was always the tall one. The outside hitter is a go-to position with more responsibility. There’s a little more pressure.”
UL coach Amy Kraljev wouldn’t have anyone else in that spot.
“You always know you can count on Elina,” Kraljev said. “She gets 15 kills a match, every match.”
We’re using her more on the back row now, too, so we’re getting offense from her on the front and back row.
“We have given her a lot of responsibility as a senior, and she has thrived on it. She’s having a good year, and if you look at past seasons, she always gets better in the last couple weeks of conference.”
Salomaki has taken many previous paths to reach this point, but there were also a few more not taken.
“Growing up, I was into ballroom dancing,” she said. “That’s what I really wanted to do. I also ran track. I was tall, and I always wanted to play basketball.
“My whole family played volleyball, and there wasn’t enough time to do everything. The (club) basketball team wasn’t good, and volleyball had more success.”
The slender Cajun senior wants people to know that Finland is not constantly covered in snow.
“I tell people it’s like Canada,” Salomaki said. “We do have summer, a really pretty summer.”
She also said volleyball isn’t as easy as it may look.
“A lot of people think it’s not physically hard,” Salomaki said. “But it is. You have to be fit to play, especially if you play beach volleyball. Beach is a whole different game, with just two people and the sand. There’s so much pressure. You can’t sub out. Playing beach has taught me a lot about myself.”
So has playing for UL.
“It’s great to play sports and go to school at the same time,” she said. “And I found out when I got here that the school helps you to work around it. It’s great having all this support. And I love being a Ragin’ Cajun.”
Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns (4-14, 1-4)
Saturday vs. Western Kentucky (22-2, 7-0 Sun Belt), 5 p.m.
Originally published October 21, 2005
CAJUNS VOLLEYBALL TEAM BESTED BY FIU IN SUN BELT OPENER
October 02, 2005 – Matt Hebert, Sports Information –
Louisiana-Lafayette took the court for the first time since Sept. 17
LAFAYETTE ï¿½ Elina Salomaki posted a season-high 21 kills, but a quartet of Florida International players each posted double-digit kills to overshadow her performance and help the Golden Panthers to a 3-2 (30-24, 23-30, 30-20, 28-30, 15-9) victory over Louisiana’s Ragin’ Cajuns volleyball team Sunday afternoon at Earl K. Long Gym.
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Updated Nov. 8, 2018 by Elina.
Elina K. Salomaki
Experience Professional Athlete
Competed professionally in Spain for CV Aguere (2015)
Competed for Finnish Vanajan Racing Club and also in FIVB Euro-cup (2008-2009)
University of Louisiana at Lafayette , Lafayette, LA (2003-2005)
Puijo Wolley, Womenâ€™s 2nd league, Finland (2017 â€“ present)
Junior Clubs teams in Finland, Poland, United States and Australia (2000 – present) Coached a 15 and under team to a Finnish National Championship (2009). Coached club teams at Southern Spikers (2004-2007) USAÂ§ Coached Comeaux High School Varsity Volleyball Team (2007) USA Dural Recreation Centre/ Hills Volleyball (2000-2002) AUS -Taught individual and team volleyball skills, created practice plans, instructed players, created volleyball conditioning programs, managed games and tournaments and mentored athletes ages 13-18 years old.
2014- California Coast University. Santa Ana, CA Master of Science in Psychology Current Student 2003-2007 University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Lafayette, LA
2002-2003 Mississippi University for Women. Columbus, MS 1 Year Student Athlete
Special Skills and Awards