What does a rookie right-side hitter on the #18 UCSB women’s volleyball team need to do to earn some recognition? With two outstanding middle blockers in junior Megan Blackshire and sophomore Olivia Waldowski on the same roster – in addition to senior libero and Sports Imports/AVCA National Player of the Week laureate Kristin Nelson – freshman outside hitter Bethany Johansen cannot seem to do enough to grab headlines.
“I’m used to being overshadowed by older players,” said Johansen, who did not play varsity volleyball at Archbishop Mitty High School in San Jose, Calif., until her junior year. “I feel like the attention that I got was mostly in my senior year of high school.”
Though they would be legitimate, these are by no means gripes coming from the mouth of this fiery first-year player, and she does not consider herself to be in competition with her teammates. However, whenever Johansen shines, it seems that one of her fellow Gauchos manages to finish ahead of her by a nose.
Johansen notched her third match without a hitting error Friday against Long Beach, but the night belonged to Nelson, who crept closer to the all-time dig record. She earned another clean night at Pacific on Oct. 30, just one under the school record of 14 kills without a miscue, and sophomore outside hitter Janine Sandell erupted for a season-high 25 put-aways the same evening. Could it be that Johansen rises and falls with the team?
“In all of the big games, Bethany has played big and I think that is important,” UCSB Head Coach Kathy Gregory said. “She’s not up and down; her attitude and effort are always 100 percent.”
Sandell will invariably collect more kills than Johansen, and though Johansen completes the trio at the net that represents the top blocking team in the league, Waldowski and Blackshire show up more in the box score. None of this bothers Johansen, though, and though the Big West radar picks her up as the fifth-best percentage hitter in the conference, her focus is on winning and improving.
“When she’s had a bad game, she accepts that she has to work harder,” Gregory said. “She’s very humble and puts a lot of pressure on herself, but she’s very coachable.”
Gregory projected that Johansen would return to the middle of the court, a position she played at Mitty, in the future. Gregory paired Johansen with freshman setter Ashley Dutro on a club volleyball team during their senior years in high school to acquaint the two with each other, and Johansen has taken not only to Dutro but also to the rest of her teammates.
“As long as she’s getting her kills, opponents have to respect everyone,” Blackshire said. “Bethany stepping it up helps spread the block and helps someone else have a good game.
Clearly, it doesn’t matter to anyone that Johansen has not once led the team outright in blocks or kills this season, but her achievements certainly deserve some attention and credit.
“Bethany wants to win and knows the score, and she also has a maturity about her,” Gregory said. “She is really tough, but she hasn’t even reached all her potential.”
Give it a couple of seasons. Johansen will dominate the court and the newspapers once she emerges from a few shadows.