HOLDEN — When describing positions in the sport of volleyball, it’s often said that the “setter” is the glue that holds the team together, and for good reason.
Setters do exactly what their name implies, which is to place every other ball on an attacker, who is about to kill (hit hard to win the point) the ball and capture the point . Setters are responsible for coordinating their team’s overall attack while ensuring that attackers have a real chance to kill the ball. The setter is responsible for controlling the flow of play as well as getting the best out of his teammates.
And, oh, as a smuggler, when things go wrong, there’s nowhere to hide.
Arguably one of the best passers in this area is Wachusett Regional High School senior Allie Johnson, who knows the job isn’t for the faint of heart but can be hugely rewarding if done right.
“Everyone gets a little nervous because as a setter you feel that pressure all the time,” said Johnson, who thrives on the thrill of calling all the shots on the volleyball court. “We’re leading the attack, so we always make quick decisions, but it’s a healthy pressure.
“I know our program in Wachusett is so unique. It’s very welcoming and very inclusive. Whether you team up or not, you can get involved, which I think is great. The coaches and the girls I’ve played with make it wonderful. The coaches are passionate about coaching us. It’s a whole other aspect of volleyball besides being on the court.
Johnson did not choose his position; it came with the help of the college coaching staff, who saw that she had the potential to play such a crucial role and play it well. She had tried other sports, but volleyball always stood out for her.
“” I played football. I played baseball, I played basketball,” she recalled, also mentioning her 10 years in gymnastics. “I’ve tried them all, but volleyball is the one that stood out to me the most. When I first went to tryouts I was open-minded, but in the back of my mind I thought I would play in the back row, because I was smaller then and I grew (5’6″ now). We were doing a drill, and I remember the freshman coach picked me up and said they wanted to try me as a setter. It went from there, and I have never tried any other position.
“I train a lot at home. I probably ruined the side of my house running over it,” she laughed.
Johnson also credits Mountaineer head coach Jennifer Burton for setting the tone and imparting her in-depth knowledge of the game that has made Wachusett teams past and present successful. Johnson and her teammates are aware of what their coach brings to the team and how much of a difference he makes for the girls.
“The coaching we get means everything,” Johnson of Holden said. “She lets us take control which is also important because she gives us amazing advice in training and in games. We need her to guide and orient us because she knows what we need. I don’t think we would be as successful without her.
Burton will be looking for senior executives to help young players looking to take that quantum leap from JV to college, and that’s where Johnson and others in his class come in.
“Allie brings a strong work ethic and drive to our team, as well as a natural leadership ability as a passer,” Burton said. “She brings the intangibles that every coach loves and every team needs to be successful.
“She’s worked hard in the off-season to help promote our program by working with college kids and helping run our clinics. She’s someone I can count on as a coach, and she takes a big responsibility. part of the on-court responsibility as our setter. She is extremely coachable and well-respected at school and on the volleyball court.”
“I feel like when you’re coaching young girls you have to have patience, but you also have to be passionate because these girls are going through the same experience as me without ever having played,” Johnson said. “You have to work on it because volleyball is 90% a mental game. The coach always said that volleyball is a game of mistakes. If you’re not completely in the game, it’s going to be a lot to manage. Giving them that mentality at an early age is very important.
“Getting far in the playoffs is a goal for everyone. You always want to do better than last season. As elders, we want to do our best. There’s also a lot of talent coming in, and I’m looking forward to this season. We can go far. The girl group we have is very determined.
As dedicated as Johnson is to the sport of volleyball (she also plays club and beach volleyball), she is also committed to academic excellence. She is a member of the National Honor Society and regularly earns a place on the honor roll. She knows that academics must be central to shaping her future.
“Academics are important. Some people think it’s too much, but I focus a lot on school. I don’t intend to play volleyball forever. I love school. It’s not a burden for me at all. »
Johnson also acknowledges the pride she and her teammates feel in donning the Wachusett uniform knowing she has played a part in the elite category of Mountaineer student-athletes. She swears she will never take this for granted.
“At the end of the day, whether you win or lose, you represent Wachusett, so you always have to keep a good attitude,” she said. “It’s more than just a school, it’s the people. Whether it’s your family or friends supporting the team, it’s who you represent when you wear this jersey, so it’s important to keep that in mind at all times.