DSU's Johnson a volleyball 'sponge'
When one libero left the Dickinson State volleyball team, second-year freshman Rebecca Johnson realized she would have to step up her game. When a second libero determined she would have sit out this season, Johnson got a little nervous. "I was s...
When one libero left the Dickinson State volleyball team, second-year freshman Rebecca Johnson realized she would have to step up her game.
When a second libero determined she would have sit out this season, Johnson got a little nervous.
"I was scared," Johnson said. "I was like, I don't know if I'm ready to just hop in."
Now, as the Blue Hawks head into the second half of their Dakota Athletic Conference schedule, Johnson has grown into one of the team's most reliable players and one of the league's biggest surprises.
Johnson is second in the DAC in total digs (375), but leads the conference in digs per set at 5.1. She has been named DAC libero of the week three times this season.
Johnson and the Blue Hawks (12-12, 6-1 DAC) look for their seventh consecutive victory when they host Valley City State at 7 tonight at Scott Gymnasium.
A young leader on an increasingly veteran-orientated team, Johnson has earned the praise of her coaches and teammates through diligent work.
Blue Hawks head coach Ryan Platt said while the Dickinson High School graduate's play may be a pleasant surprise to fans, he expected her to have a strong season.
"I'm sure she's a huge surprise to everybody," Platt said. "But not for us who've been working with her the past year on her technique and tactics."
Platt and Whitley Abrahamson, the team's junior setter and Johnson's high school teammate, spoke separately about Johnson before Thursday evening's practice.
Interestingly, both turned to the word "sponge" to best describe Johnson's rise from redshirt to standout in one year.
"I've never seen anybody (be) more of a sponge than that girl," Platt said. "I've taught her some of the more advanced techniques I know and she's just picked them up like they were nothing to her."
Abrahamson said no DSU player listens to Platt more intently than Johnson. She pointed to Johnson's improved passing since arriving last season as an example.
"It's really hard to transform your passing method, but she has gone above and beyond," Abrahamson said. "She's like a sponge. She just absorbs everything he says and really works on it."
After last season, Johnson was expected to stick her nose into a competitive libero race against returners Shelby Thirsk and Sasha Bruels, another Dickinson High graduate.
But, when Bruels transferred to the University of North Dakota for academic purposes and Thirsk determined she couldn't play this season due to health issues, Johnson knew she would be seeing more of the court than she had expected.
"It was a little scary when (Bruels) left," Johnson said. "It was like 'Whoa!' I need to pick it up and do my part."
Fast forward a couple months and Johnson is one of the most confident players on the floor. She, redshirt freshman Katelyn Christensen and junior transfer Brittney Keele share time at the libero spot. However, Johnson has staked her claim as the team's top defensive specialist.
"I feel so much more comfortable in the position. I don't feel so new," Johnson said. "I've just gotten used to playing with all the girls on my team and becoming more comfortable with everyone."