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SPOTLIGHT
Johnson a catalyst for Indian soccer

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Johnson a catalyst for Indian soccer

Published on -4/11/2013, 10:18 AM

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By KLINT SPILLER

kspiller@dailynews.net

Hays High School senior outside midfielder April Johnson doesn't blow up the stat sheet.

Johnson typically doesn't lead the team in scoring, and many times she doesn't even get credited with the assists. She likes it that way, but don't be confused, much of Hays High's prolific offense starts with her.

Johnson, one of the most skilled ball handlers on the team, pushes the pace on the outside of the field, setting up offensive runs for the Indians (5-2).

"April is kind of her own person," said senior Megan Bird. "She is kind of in her own world sometimes. She will just take off with the ball. She is one of the faster ones on the team, and as an outside mid, you have to be. She is always doing some kind of move."

Johnson might be Hays High's fastest player on the field with a ball at her feet, making her an ideal candidate to sprint up and down the outside of the field where there are the fewest number of defenders to slow her down.

"I like using the line as a boundary," Johnson said regarding why she likes the outside. "I think it helps."

The right-foot dominant midfielder pushes the pace and is excellent crossing the ball. She is so good she usually takes her team's corner kicks.

In a way, Johnson is the catalyst that has sparked Hays High's record-breaking scoring attack the past four seasons.

"I work on my moves a lot," Johnson said.

Johnson, a three-time all-WAC honoree, has started at outside midfield since her freshman year. She was a first-team all-WAC selection as a freshman and junior and earned honorable mention her sophomore season.

This year is looking like it might be her best year yet.

In 2012, she finished with two goals and five assists. This year, she already has scored once and posted three assists.

Hays High head coach Chris Michaelis said he loves Johnson's drive.

"She's a tough player to play against," he said. "If she does lose possession of the ball, she'll go back and get it back. At times, she'll commit a foul doing that, but I love that competitiveness that I'm going to go get that ball back. ... You need your team to have that mentality."

If Johnson has a weakness, it's her dependence on her right foot. She loves using her right foot, mainly because she is so adept with it.

"We all joke how we think the left side of her body is paralyzed, because she never uses it," Bird said. "But she is a great player. She really is."

Because of her right-foot dominance, Johnson prefers the right side of the field. Sometimes, fans can see her on the field lobbying to coaches to stay on the right side, but she can play on the left as well.

When she does play on the left, she uses her right foot to her advantage, starting from the far left and cutting right toward the goal to set up better opportunities.

"She wasn't sold on the idea (of starting on the left early in her career) at first, but once she had some success and saw what I was talking about would be beneficial for her, she'shad a positive attitude and really took off with that," Michaelis said.

It's not just her moves that make her such a good teammate. Bird said Johnson's upbeat personality, along with senior Taylor Herman's, help keep the Indians with the right mindset during games.

"They keep our team going," Bird said. "It just makes everything so much more exciting. They are very fun to play with."

Johnson wasn't always a midfielder.

Johnson, who started playing soccer when she was 6 years old, was more of a defender prior to high school and didn't start at outside midfielder until Michaelis was her coach.

Michaelis said he saw the potential in her to be a terrific outside midfielder.

"Each year, she's gotten better and better," he said. "That creates opportunities to use her speed, and the moves she utilizes fits her really well at outside mid."

So far it's worked.

The Indians scored the most goals in school history last season, and this year, they are on pace to come close to last year's mark, especially if they make it deep in the post-season.

At the end of the season, Johnson's name likely won't be all over the stat book, but if it weren't for her pace and her creativity with the ball, Hays High girls' soccer likely wouldn't be where it is now.

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