August 6, 2018 11:11:00 PM
CALEDONIA -- Camryn Johnson feels the need for speed.
As a setter for the Caledonia High School volleyball team, it would be almost unnatural if Johnson didn't crave a crisp pass that allows her to deliver a quick set to a middle blocker or to shoot a pass out wide to the right or the left for a kill.
To develop that knack for handling every pass, Johnson had to learn the passing habits and the hitting preferences of her teammates. Sometimes that has required Johnson to have quick feet to help her get into position to keep a pass alive. On other occasions, Johnson has been positioned perfectly for a pass and can pick who she is going to set for a kill.
Johnson experienced a little bit of both Saturday in leading Caledonia to two victories in its first matches of the season. Johnson led the team with 24 assists and five aces in victories against Alcorn Central and Corinth at the Pontotoc Classic.
For her accomplishments, Johnson is The Dispatch's Prep Player of the Week.
"Our team looked so good against Corinth," Johnson said. "We communicated a lot more. (Against Alcorn Central), there wasn't much talking and everyone was running into each other because it was crowded in the gym. We just have to forget about that and play as our team and we can make it our game. We were talking so much more and we just made everything flow more together."
Johnson, a junior, has been playing setter ever since she started playing volleyball. She started playing club volleyball with Level Elite Sports / Mississippi Juniors, the organization run by former Mississippi State volleyball coach Tina Seals before she started playing for Caledonia High, which helped her step right in and make an impact.
Johnsons said Seals stressed the importance of being quick to her at an early age. After eight years of playing volleyball, Johnson said she has learned how to anticipate where passes are going so she can keep balls alive to give the Lady Confederates a chance to win the point.
"One of our really good passers is Maddy Suggs. She is our libero," Johnson said. "She normally passes it in front of the 10-foot line, which leaves me an open option for me to set it to all three of my hitters if I am not front row, which is awesome. I always want the opportunity to do that."
Caledonia High coach Samantha Brooks said Johnson's club experience allows her to play faster. She hopes that knack for making something happen with any kind of pass can help Johnson keep the offense clicking in a sport that relies on tempo and momentum. The faster an offense can move the ball, the faster a setter can deliver it at just the right height so her hitters can record kills.
"Her dedication and playing in the offseason has helped us," Brooks said. "She wasn't growing into the spot last year because she was very good. She fit the role very easily because she played in the offseason."
Johnson said Brooks is working to prepare the Lady Confederates to play fast this season by calling out plays prior to the serve. She said that puts everyone in a frame of mind to be ready for anything. Brooks feels Johnson's ability to handle a faster pace will give Caledonia's offense a chance to balance out what she feels is a strong defense. If that happens, Johnson and Brooks believe Caledonia will be able to play quickly and keep opponents off balance.
Johnson is willing to shoulder the responsibility of making quick decisions even when passes might not be perfect. She also has developed a short memory because you can't dwell on a mistake in a sport where the next point is under way in seconds.
"It has taken a long time, but I would say in the past two or three years I have learned to forget about the last play," Johnson said. "Getting myself down also has been bad, too, but it has gotten so much better. I remember when I was younger how hard I was on myself. I didn't know I could be better."
After eight years, though, Johnson has matured into a team leader who keeps getting faster.
"It got a lot better during the Corinth game," Johnson said of the pace of the offense. "I think we're ready for it for the season, too. We just have to keep practicing."
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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