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Opponents Beware: Willow Johnson Inherited Her Father’s Left Arm

  • February 28, 2021

Despite the absence of a professional league in the United States, volleyball has thrived in the country. According to an annual report by the National Federation of State High School Associations, more than 450,000 girls played high school volleyball in 2019, second only to track and field, and the numbers for the sport rose in each of the previous seven years. At the college level, volleyball trailed only soccer, softball and track and field during the same period, according to a study by the N.C.A.A.

Johnson played high school volleyball in Arizona, joined an elite club travel team there and then played four years at the University of Oregon, where she finished ninth in program history with a .272 hitting percentage. She had 1,011 kills and 1,165 career points.

At 6-foot-3, she possesses a devastating overhand strike with a powerful left hand inherited, in part, from her father, as well as the necessary jumping ability prized by the game’s top hitters. But also like her father, who used off-speed pitches with as much effect as his electric fastball, she also knows how to find the floor with a deft, softer touch.

Johnson and her famous father bear a striking resemblance, especially in competition. Both are tall, imposing athletes. Both wield a lethal left arm, seemingly built to unleash fury on opponents, and both have a fiery side when competing. The similarities have long been evident to Willow, who has taken time to watch video highlights of her father that reinforced her own memories.

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