When Megan Johnson graduated from the Sehome varsity volleyball team last year, there were questions about who would replace her.
Coach Kristy White knew it wouldn't be an issue, though, when she saw Megan's younger sister, Dani, play.
"I coached Dani when she was in U12, and I knew she was going to be good," White said. "I told her parents that Dani was going to be just as good, if not better than Megan. She just has it and is an explosive player. This year she has gotten a lot more confident and has really come alive."
Johnson played for the JV team last year as a freshman but was moved up to varsity for the district and state tournaments, giving her an opportunity to play with and learn from her older sister.
"She got to see her sister play and see the awesome success her sister had," White said. "She has a really supportive family, and they have made it really possible for her. She has done a lot of work and started working out last March to get ready."
Johnson said she felt right at home when she made the transition to varsity.
"I really wanted to step up and play to the upperclassman's level and show them what I've got," Johnson said. "Our team is really close and that helps a lot. We are like a family, and not a lot of teams have that. Last year I felt a little bit like an outsider, but this year I felt like I was close to them and that I belonged on their level."
White, who has worked with most of the Mariners sophomore class since the players were 10 years old, doesn't think Johnson's age is a problem for the rest of her team, either.
This year, Johnson helped the Mariners to a 14-4 record and helped them qualify for the Class 2A State Tournament. Sehome will face Washington on Friday, Nov. 9, in the first round.
Johnson credits the help she got from watching her older sister for her success this season.
"I used to follow her around all the time," Johnson said. "We had similar interests, so it worked out well. She would show me things and teach me and help me."
In addition to what she learned from her sister, Johnson has a skill set that have made her invaluable to the Mariners this season.
"She has a natural knack of seeing the game. It can be easy to get caught up watching the ball, but she really sees the court well," White said. "She has an incredible arm swing, both fundamentally and physically. She can really attack the ball."
But Johnson is not satisfied with natural ability, as White said she often gets embarrassed about mistakes she makes and has a perfectionist attitude.
Johnson also has stepped up for the team as a vocal leader.
"Last year I was really quiet and shy," Johnson said. "I have kind of opened up to everybody and become more aggressive and that has really helped me."
Johsnon thinks that Sehome can go a lot further than last year in the state tournament, when the Mariners lost in the first round and were eliminated in their first match of the second day.
"I think we have improved a lot since last year," Johnson said. "We have all been working really hard and know this is our time. We need to bring it and go all or nothing. ... We made it to state and that was one of our goals," Dani said. "But we want to do more than that, we want to go far in state."
TODAY'S STATE VOLLEYBALL
At Pierce College and Lakes High School
? First round: Sehome vs. Washington, 12:45 p.m.
NOTE: A consolation first round or quarterfinal match will follow against White River or Selah.
At Yakima Valley SunDome
? First round: Nooksack Valley vs. King's Way Christian, 8 a.m.
NOTE: A consolation first round or quarterfinal match will follow against Zillah or Annie Wright.
? First round: Lynden Christian vs. Leavenworth Cascade, 9:45 a.m.
NOTE: A consolation first round or quarterfinal match will follow against Woodland or Granger.
Player Yr. Pos.
Alex Wilkinson Sr. S
Megan Greer So. S
Katie Becker Sr. M
Taylor Harris So. M
Erika Smith Jr. RS
Danielle Strasser Jr. M/RS
Koko Kauhi Sr. OH/RS
Dani Johnson So. OH
Taylor Lyall Jr. OH
Kendra Thomas Jr. L
Casey Grosso So. 0L
Quinn Donaldson Jr. M/RS
Reach Kyle Elliott at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-715-2271.