Nansemond River High School girls' volleyball head coach Nicole Johnson has not been on the job long, but her impact has already been felt on the team. The Lady Warriors are currently 3-1 overall and 1-0 in the conference. (Titus Mohler / Suffolk News-Herald)
Nansemond River High School girls' volleyball head coach Nicole Johnson has not been on the job long, but her impact has already been felt on the team. The Lady Warriors are currently 3-1 overall and 1-0 in the conference. (Titus Mohler / Suffolk News-Herald)

Lady Warriors enjoy fresh start

Published 8:24pm Thursday, September 12, 2013

A new tone set by a new coach has defined the 2013 season so far for the Nansemond River High School girl’s volleyball team.

Head coach Nicole Johnson moved to the area four months ago from Florida and now finds herself guiding the Lady Warriors.

“I didn’t even know what I was getting myself into,” she said.

The team had a .500 season last year, just missing the district tourney. Having not been acquainted with the Southeastern District, Johnson has little perspective on the teams she and the Lady Warriors will face this year.

However, based on what she knows of her senior-laden team, she has high expectations.

“I don’t know that they’ll see much competition that will beat them,” she said. “If they lose, it’ll be to themselves.”

The Lady Warriors are already 3-1 this season and now 1-0 in the conference with a 3-0 win against visiting Lakeland High School on Tuesday: 25-23, 25-11, 27-25.

“They have incredible potential as long as they don’t roller coaster,” Johnson said, alluding to the result when a team does not bring it’s “A” game to every game and every practice.

Johnson knows what success looks like, having grown up playing volleyball in Texas, where she said there is a higher level of competition. She played for a state championship at Canyon High School in New Braunfels, Texas, and also received a full scholarship to play outside hitter for the Coast Guard.

She was not able to win the state title in high school, however, “which is why I coach, I tell my girls,” she said. “If I couldn’t get one on that side,” she aims to get a championship by guiding from the sidelines.

Her confidence and coaching style have had an effect on her players, as senior libero Maddy-Grace Lavender said, “I feel we’re doing really, really well, especially with our new coach.”

Lavender said her expectation is for the team to make states this year.

Johnson said Lavender is a leader on the team who brings humor, heart and the energy the team needs to succeed.

The Lady Warriors’ primary threat is 6’3” senior middle blocker/hitter Tatyana Thomas. Johnson described her as a quiet leader who has incredible jumping ability.

“She wants to win, she wants to play at the next level,” Johnson said.

She said the true, vocal leader on the team is most consistently junior Morgan Lowers, who also brings great versatility.

“She’s my athlete; I put her anywhere on the court,” Johnson said. The perspective she carries as coach is, “When nothing is going right, give it to Morgan.”

The coach highlighted senior Victoria Newbill as a player the team relies upon for her consistency.

“She doesn’t make mistakes, she just puts the ball in,” Johnson said.

Nansemond River’s new coach said the biggest challenge the team will have to overcome this season is unraveling during a match, letting one point by the other team turn into five points.

The Lady Warriors host Oscar Smith High School tonight.

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