MONTREAT — A local volleyball player earned three awards this week in college.
Kendra Johnson, an all-conference performer at Surry Central, has now earned first team all-conference honors for the Appalachian Athletic Conference.
The Montreat College junior also was named the AAC libero of the year.
In addition to her on-court prowess, Johnson was honored for being a true scholar-athlete with her inclusion on the AAC Academic All-Conference Team.
Three times during the season Johnson was named the AAC defender of the week. The league made those announcements Sept. 19, Oct. 3 and Oct. 26.
The first honor came after she had a record-setting night against Reinhardt University.
The libero was all over the court, making 60 digs during a five-set win in an AAC showdown.
Johnson said at the time that her previous season best was probably half that many digs. But, “my hips are bruised from all the diving on the floor.”
Similarly in high school, Surry Central coach Carrie Hutchens Bruce said she would have to patch up Kendra’s elbows despite wearing long sleeves, because the jersey and her skin were getting ripped open from dives to the hardwood court.
Not only was the 60 mark a Montreat school record, but it was also a record for the AAC. In fact, Montreat said this is the sixth-best defensive performance in the history of the NAIA.
She would follow that up with 38 digs against Tennessee Wesleyan and 24 in a 3-0 shutout of Bryan.
For the second award, Johnson had “just” 74 digs in three matches, but all three were lopsided wins where the opponent didn’t get a lot of spikes for her to stop.
For the third award, Montreat said that Johnson had 79 digs in three wins. The AAC said Johnson was not only first in her conference on the season, but second in all of the NAIA in digs per set (6.28).
“The college game is a lot faster, I can tell you that,” said Johnson. When she was brought in as a defensive specialist as a freshman, she said it was a real shock.
In high school, her coach said Johnson had great vision and anticipation. At the faster speed of college, however, Johnson said she had to get even smarter so she could anticipate sooner.
“I feel like I have a lot more knowledge than I did in high school,” she said.
Now in her third college season, Johnson said she has grown so much. As a freshman she was struggling to find her place on the team and be helpful. Now the younger players look up to her as one of the captains.
Her season came to an end Thursday night with a 3-1 loss where she did her part with 37 digs.
Next year she wants to improve in all areas. She would love to break her own game record. She also wants to look up the career mark for digs and see if she has any chance of breaking that one. She also wants to move up from second to first in the nation for the NAIA.
One look at Johnson’s chiseled physique shows she stays in shape year-round.
Johnson said exercise science is her major, and she will be a fully certified personal trainer when she graduates. She makes out her own exercise schedule for the offseason.
“I do work out a lot and really hard,” she said. One muscle group or another, she said she lifts weights most every day. She also runs for cardio.
The past couple of summers she has held some workouts with high school volleyball players. Any aspiring liberos or defensive specialists wanting private instruction can call Johnson at (336) 648-6255.
For now, she will be cheering on her younger brother, Chandler, who is quarterbacking the Golden Eagles to one of their best football seasons in several years.
Reach Jeff at 415-4692.