Female Area Athlete of the Week: Johnson paces PRB offense
Jaime Johnson can’t do it without her teammates.
The Pine River-Backus senior racked up 12 kills in the Tigers’ opening win over Blackduck, but the connection she has with her teammates, most notably setter Rylie Hirschey, is what makes Johnson dangerous.
Johnson backed up her 12-kill performance opening night with a 17-kill game in a loss to Walker-Hackensack-Akeley.
“We just came into the game hoping to do our best,” Johnson said of the win over Blackduck. “I came into the game wanting to win, but also wanting our team to do better.”
One of Johnson’s best qualities is her consistency.
“She hit the ball well all night,” PRB head coach Josh Hirschey said. “She was also a big contributor in the back row for us as well.”
Johnson has built a good spike with practice. The ability to work with the other hitters and setter is what makes the Tigers hard to stop.
“I ask for the ball,” Johnson said. “I say ‘hey (Olivia Adkins) want to run this or hey (Rylie Hirschey) want to do this.’ And they come back to me saying ‘hey Jaime want to run this?’ and I guess that helps me get the ball more than others.”
The trio of Adkins, Hirschey and Johnson play volleyball as well as basketball along with many other girls on the team.
“It’s pretty much like we are one big family,” Johnson said. “We always stick up for each other and even if one of us doesn’t have a good game we always encourage each other to do better. It’s nice to have the same team for multiple sports.”
“They've been playing a lot of sports since the start of grade school together,” Josh Hirschey said. “Through the years, they have only grown closer on and off the court. And it’s good for the girls.”
Rylie Hirschey is Johnson’s setter so there is a special bond with those two.
“We haven’t stopped being friends,” Johnson said. “It’s nice to have that friend in life.”
Josh Hirschey has had a front row seat to the Rylie-Johnson relationship being Rylie’s father.
“Rylie has been her setter and those two have a pretty good relationship and seem to know where each other are at all times,” Josh Hirschey said. “They are expecting more of each other as time has gone on. Hopefully this year they will be more demanding of each other because they have that great relationship.”
Josh Hirschey noted Johnson is an explosive jumper which helps her powerful spike.
“Her vertical off a single step or two is really high level,” he said. “Right now we are working on her to hit spots.”
Being back on the volleyball court felt relieving for Johnson.
“It felt so good,” she said. “I missed playing a game against another team for a long time. Especially since we had that little time period of not being able to do anything. It felt really nice to have the whole team out there.”
It doesn’t matter how many games Johnson ends up playing, she’s just happy she has a senior season to enjoy.
“Whether it’s a few games or a lot of games it was just nice to get back out there,” Johnson said. “I was really nervous. I really needed a senior season or else I definitely would have been in tears. Hopefully we can make it last awhile.”
Johnson’s favorite memories playing PRB volleyball include going to state in 2017, but it’s mostly hanging out with her teammates and friends.
“Practice is something that I look forward to more than any other sports,” Johnson said. “When we have our offseason we have JO (Junior Olympics) volleyball hanging out in hotels and it’s just awesome.”
As a coach the great chemistry is a blessing and a curse to Josh Hirschey.
“I’ve known these girls for so long and been coaching them for so long that sometimes it can be hard to get on them,” he said. “We are super close and sometimes it is tough love. They are great kids and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
Other notable performances:
Volleyball: Morgan Becker, Staples-Motley, tallied 12 kills and 11 digs in a win over Swanville
Phoebe Glenn, Pequot Lakes, tallied 32 set assists and 12 digs in a win over Sauk Centre.
Kate Bolz-Andolshek, Pequot Lakes, tallied 22 kills and 13 digs in a win over Sauk Centre.
Lydia Hubbard, Pequot Lakes, tallied 11 kills in a win over Detroit Lakes.
Ally Ehnstrom, Aitkin, tallied 26 set assists in a win over Park Rapids.
Kerstin Knopik, Little Falls, tallied 13 kills in a win over Milaca.
Rylie Hirschey, Pine River-Backus, tallied 19 set assists and eight digs in a win over Blackduck.
Tennis: Megan Muller, Pequot Lakes, won 6-1, 6-1 at No. 1 singles in a win over Duluth Marshall.
Maddie Gall-Marybeth Tautges, Pierz, won 6-0, 6-2 at No. 1 doubles in a win over Long Prairie-Grey Eagle.
Lauren Rutten, Staples-Motley, won 6-0, 6-0 at No. 1 singles in a win over Sauk Centre.
School: Pine-River Backus
Highlights: She tallied 12 kills, eight digs and three aces in a win over Blackduck.