Senior is ready to defend Gophers’ soccer title

by Aaron Kirscht

Allison Johnson just doesn’t have time for this, which is completely understandable.
She’s got a night class to prepare for, and she hoped to fit in a little quality study time before deadline.
So as she sits for a post-practice interview, Johnson has shifted from Gophers women’s soccer player to University student in a blink.
Although she is sad to see her senior season near its conclusion, Johnson will welcome the chance to catch her breath in the race toward graduation in July.
“I’m really stressed out right now,” Johnson said. “It’s sad and everything, but it’ll be nice to have the extra time for my classes.”
It would seem Johnson is the quintessential student-athlete: hard-working on the field and off.
As a soccer player, she’s always had to work a little harder. Johnson started playing in the suburbs of Chicago at age 5, but her loyalties were then divided between soccer and basketball.
“I liked soccer, but I thought basketball would be the sport I played in college,” Johnson said. “During the winter, when everybody was playing (in the Olympic Development Program), I was playing basketball.”
So when summer practices came around, Johnson would be out shape for soccer. She would have to pick up a lot of the skills other players had acquired playing club soccer in a hurry.
“It took me a little longer to get (up to speed),” Johnson said. “That hurt me a little bit, especially for getting my name out.”
But it apparently didn’t hurt too much, since Johnson was still able to attract the attention of one of the top soccer programs in the nation.
“In the end, I decided I was going to play soccer (instead of basketball),” Johnson said. “I fell in love with the game.” And as it turned out, her height (5-foot-8) has served her well in soccer, too.
“I love getting in the air and fighting for the ball,” she said. “Being tall helps.”
With basketball out of the way, Johnson was able to further develop her soccer skills, a process that she says drew her to the game. And now, in her senior year, her hard work has led her to the starting slot in her favorite position: defensive stopper.
“It’s the best because not only do I play a lot of defense, I get to bring the ball upfield,” Johnson said.
But Johnson didn’t get to play the position full-time until last year. When she came into the program, then-senior Ellen Peterfeso had dibs on the starting lineup.
“I had to wait my turn, I guess,” Johnson said. “But it was okay because I think I play better (in this position).”
A good defender, Johnson says, has to be a smart player, aware at all times of her position on the field and in relation to her opponent.
So does Johnson live up to her own definition? She shrugs in response, apparently unwilling to heap too much praise on herself.
“I consider myself a hard worker,” Johnson said. “But all of the defenders on our team can hold their own. I think we’re a great defensive team.”
Indeed, Minnesota’s defense has held opponents to 20 goals in 18 games. In the Big Ten, the mark ties the Gophers with Northwestern for second. Minnesota will play the Wildcats Friday in the first round of the Big Ten tournament this weekend.
With the Gophers, Johnson has played a big part in the team’s success. She has achieved a few personal goals along the way and shares the team’s objective this weekend: to win another Big Ten title.