Going Camping

Bronx native Kerri Johnson is one of the top returning girls’ volleyball players in New York City. Photo by Damion Reid/Five Boro Sports

Kerri Johnson was a basketball player, so she knows how important the summer months are. Two years ago, the Bronx native traveled all over the country with the NY Xplosion AAU team.

Now, she’s applying that same philosophy in her new sport: volleyball.

Johnson, a rising senior at Preston, has already been to a prestigious USA Volleyball High Performance camp in Colorado Springs, Colo., and a camp at the University of Delaware. This month, she’ll go to one run by the YMCA and to the University of Rhode Island camp.

“My summers have always been packed with sports,” Johnson said. “I basically always had to dedicate my summer time to getting better. [Playing] AAU showed me that summer was my time to improve on everything.”

There isn’t much volleyball going on in the summer outside of the beach and the PSAL’s Big Apple Games. Girls’ volleyball club season starts in November and finishes up in May, leaving a void until the school season begins in September. Johnson, who just started playing club with Creole Big Apple as a sophomore, is making sure to fill that void.

“I feel like I’m behind in my skill level and I want to be as good as I possibly can in my senior year,” she said. … “If I didn’t go to these camps I would have a two-month break from volleyball and I would hate that.”

Though she started playing basketball at a younger age, the 6-foot outside/middle hitter fell in love with volleyball in high school. She said she knew it was time to stop playing basketball when she would repeatedly choose volleyball practices and matches over her first sport.

Johnson is now hell bent on earning a volleyball scholarship to college. So far, she’s in good position.

Johnson started late, but she has a rare combination of size, athleticism and power in her swing – much like a basketball player. She was a FiveBoroSports.com All-Bronx first team selection last fall and an honorable mention All-City honoree. Johnson is undoubtedly one of the top returning players in New York City and is garnering interest from NJIT and a handful of Division II schools like St. Rose and Dominican College.

“I have so much motivation in me to get a scholarship that it’s hard to believe,” Johnson said. “I never thought I would see the day where I wanted something so bad. I want to play volleyball in college so badly that I am pushing myself to a level I have never been at before.”

She’s also finding motivation in the school season. Preston was the defending CHSAA Archdiocesan champion in 2007, but the Panthers fell in the Archdiocesan playoffs. It was the first time Johnson had to be the go-to player and she was still adjusting to the role.

“You have no idea how much I want to win the title this year,” Johnson said. “I was already very lucky to win it in 2007 with my team but I want to win two titles in my high-school career.”

She isn’t quite ready to deem herself Preston’s leader, though.

“I wouldn’t say leader, but I definitely hope that I can use all the things I have learned in club and bring it to my high-school team,” Johnson said. … “We’re all aiming high for this season. Just because I play more then my high-school teammates doesn’t make me a leader. In order for me to be a leader I would have to take the whole team under my wing. I don’t want to do that. I’d rather we all play together and be leaders for each other.”

Along with all the camps she’s going to, Johnson is also a lifeguard in the summer. She swims a lot because of it, which is another part of her workout regimen. Johnson wants to be a nurse after college. And she certainly knows what she wants to do while she is there: play volleyball.

“No one is pushing me to play in the summer,” Johnson said. “I don’t have any coaches yelling at me to practice. I know that I have to do this in order to play in college. I know that if I took the summer off, there would be no way for me to play ball. That’s what pushes me everyday when I wake up and go to the gym.”

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