Athlete of Week: Johnson finds a new home in goal

cambgsoc-johnsonThe fact that Christian Academy of Myrtle Beach senior goalkeeper Emily Johnson led the Lady Saints to an undefeated regular season is impressive enough. The fact that she did so in her so-called “secondary” sport makes it even more amazing.

The Mammy’s Kitchen Athlete of the Week posted nine shutouts in helping CAMB to a perfect 14-0 record, including four consecutive shutouts to close the regular season campaign. Not bad for a star softball pitcher who only picked up a soccer ball on the competitive level three years ago after transferring from North Myrtle Beach High as a freshman.

“I transferred for the academics and smaller class sizes, but I knew that (SCISA) softball was different (than SCHSL),” said Johnson, who was already playing travel softball outside of school sports. “I decided to try soccer my sophomore year and I thought I might make a decent goalie since I’m used to having balls fired at me. I know how to catch and use my hands so it kind of came to me fairly easy.”

Three seasons later, Johnson has been a beast between the pipes for the No. 2-ranked Lady Saints. In fact, she has even gotten the chance to play other positions on the field during lopsided games, but her transformation from pitcher to the soccer pitch isn’t totally complete. Johnson readily admits that she is a softball pitcher playing soccer, not the other way around.

“I used to play soccer when I was little, but I still don’t know how to play anything but goalie,” joked Johnson, who has scored goals on two penalty kicks this season. “The team puts me out there and tells me what to do and I’m lost. I’m not much of a runner so I’ll run up and down the field for a couple of minutes and have to take a break. The coach asked me if I want to play other positions and I said, “No, don’t ever take me out of this goal again.’ ”

That shouldn’t be a problem from here on out as the Lady Saints prepare to open the playoffs this week. Having accomplished all of their goals so far this season, Johnson, who balances her busy school and sports schedule with biweekly softball practices in Charleston, hopes the team can run the rest of the table and cap her unique soccer experiment with a SCISA state title.

“Last year we almost went undefeated so the juniors said, ‘Let’s do it this year as seniors, and we did,’ ” Johnson recalled. “We’re really excited about it and now we want to go ahead and win them all and get a state championship. It would be the perfect way to end my time here. Everyone at this school has been so good to me and welcomed me with open arms, especially my teammates. We want to win it all.”

Johnson knows that ever soccer match from here on out could be her last, but she already has a bright future ahead in softball. Johnson earned a scholarship at Spartanburg Methodist, where she will take the mound and pursue her degree as well as her career in softball. She has no plans to play soccer at the next level. But given her second-sport success, don’t be surprised if the Spartanburg Methodist women’s soccer coach comes calling for help at goalie.

“Emily is one of four strong senior leaders that we have on our team. They lead by example, giving 100 percent every game,” CAMB girls soccer coach John Markley said. “Although Emily’s main sport is softball, her natural athletic skills have allowed her to be a solid presence in the goal. When the other team scores, they must earn the goal.”

Photo courtesy of CAMB Athletics

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