-By Aaron Stoner
She stands 6’0 tall, an imposing athletic height that puts the fear of the volleyball gods into her opposition. But when she smiles and begins to tell you about her journey and love for the game, one can’t help but smile too.
Meet Danielle “Dani” Johnston.
Hailing from Comstock Park, 18-year-old Johnston began playing volleyball before she was even in grade school. “So I was probably like five or six when I first started playing and practicing with balloons actually, because obviously I was too small to hold a ball. But yeah, I’ve pretty much been playing ever since.”
In her first year at Grand Rapids Community College, Johnston is currently aceing her gen ed’s while deciding what part of the health field she wants to enter.
When asked what her dream job would be, Johnston says enthusiastically, “I definitely just want to stay in the sports field. So either working for a high school or college doing physical therapy would definitely be it.”
Johnston plays outside hitter for the nationally ranked Raiders, and getting set up by her teammates to smash spikes is pretty much her specialty. But when she’s off the court, it’s all about friends and family.
“I have one older sister who played volleyball, too, and was actually coached by our mom at Comstock High. But yeah, I just love my family and friends, so getting to spend time with them is always great.”
Speaking of friends, when asked about her team, Johnston is eager to explain just how close the bond is for her squad and why it’s her favorite aspect about being a Raider.
“Everyone really is so welcoming, and we really are a tight squad,” Johnston said. “There’s zero tension, zero drama, everyone just clicks really well.”
GRCC Athletic Director Bill Firn spoke about Johnston’s desire to get better and how every week, it’s really showing on the court. “Dani has great character and is a really hard worker. I believe her work ethic is contagious to the other players around her.”
Firn went on to say how despite Johnston being a freshman, her poise during games has been very impressive. “I think that’s what has struck me the most about her play so far this season. Plus, she can stay on the floor for a whole rotation, she’s a good defender and she’s also one of our best attackers.”
When asked how her team continues its dominant play, Johnston points to practice being key.
“We do a really good job of implementing what we practice and putting it in games,” Johnston said. “And, plus, our coaches are great with keeping us motivated on and off the court. So yeah, as the season progresses, I see us continuing to play really well.”
The Raiders currently sit at 10-2 with a 7-1 record in conference play, and a fifth place national ranking. They will be back home Thursday, Sept. 27 in a tough matchup against Glen Oaks Community College.