Thursday, May 23, 2024

Sophomore shining for Spartans

September 30, 2005
Katie Johnson, a sophomore outside hitter, goes in to high-five a teammate after scoring a point during the game against the University of Michigan.

She was only in fifth grade when she was sitting in the stands with her father, cheering and watching a volleyball game, when her dad turned to her and said, "Hey, do you want to play this sport?"

As sophomore outside hitter Katie Johnson said, that's how she began to develop her love for volleyball. Johnson is currently ranked No. 4 in the nation with 5.81 kills per game, as the Spartans (8-4 Overall, 1-1 Big Ten) prepare to take on national runner-up Minnesota on Friday.

Volleyball wasn't her first choice though - basketball was. Growing up, Johnson watched the Detroit Pistons. She played basketball and volleyball in high school and received many offers to play basketball in college.

"I played basketball all throughout high school and everything, I got letters from different schools, but my heart wasn't into it," Johnson said.

This season thus far she has received MVP honors for the Spartan Invitational and was selected on all three alternative teams for the other tournaments MSU has played in.

But when her friends or anyone else bring up her accomplishments, she'll try to brush it off.

"My roommate came up to me the day we played Michigan and was like, 'Oh my gosh, I just read about you.' I was like, 'You know I just want to focus on the game tonight, the last thing on my mind is what I'm ranked,'" she said.

Johnson said she is not hung up on the numbers game and just focuses on what she needs to do during the game.

"I don't think about if I make a mistake here, then I'm going to drop to No. 4. I could care less ... I just want to get better," Johnson said. "I focus on improving every skill so I can help my team out."

MSU head coach Cathy George said that Johnson is a person who shies away from attention.

"She's a humble player who wants to help her team in any way she can, and her role is to put the ball down and she does that," George said. "She's a total team player and she wants to see the team do well."

Her teammates agree. Senior middle blocker Megan Wallin said she's a diva during the day and a competitor at night. But she doesn't mean "diva" in a mean way.

"She always looking good," Wallin said. "She always has her hair done and makeup done, always looking really cute.

"Then she has her serious side. During the game, she's really intense."

Even though she's a tough competitor, Johnson said she's really a humble person.

Johnson said growing up in the small town of Brooklyn, Mich., where farmers are the next-door neighbors and gossip spreads as fast as the town's NASCAR race track, helped mold her into the person she is today.

"Being from a small town helps. It was kind of shocking to get an offer from MSU," she said. "A lot of it was my parents too. They would always say I had a great game, but there were still some things I could work on."

Even with all of the success she has had this season she still reminds people, "I'm just like everyone else."


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