In 1994 there was a hit sitcom called Sister-Sister, where Tia and Tamera Landry were identical twins with very different tendencies.
While sisters Kendall and Makenzy Johnson aren’t twins, the different tendencies they possess make them dangerous on the volleyball court for James River.
The Rapids’ Kendall and Makenzy Johnson form of the the better setter-hitter combinations in the Central Region. Surrounding Kendall on the front line are Baylor-commit Nicole Thomas and Randolph-Macon-commit Alexia Wolfe. The talented quartet comprises one of the most talented front lines in the area. This year, nothing less than a state championship will satisfy the Midlothian school.
The chemistry between the sisters has always been present; it’s engrained in them. However playing volleyball together wasn’t initially well-received.
“At first, I didn’t want my little sister on the team,” said Kendall Johnson. “It was so weird, I always thought that we were sisters, not teammates.”
Volleyball outlets for development were numerous in Ohio, where the Johnson family used to reside., including several Catholic youth organizations, which had athletes starting early. Once Kendall and Makenzy moved to Virginia, they started playing with the Richmond Volleyball Club.
While the idea of playing with her younger sister didn’t sit well at first, Kendall realized that it had its benefits when Makenzy made varsity as a setter. Chemistry already existed between the sisters and the transition to the court was seamless. Feedback was always delivered in a direct manner.
“I wouldn’t yell at a teammate, but I could yell at my setter if I needed to,” Kendall joked.
Once Kendall warmed up to the idea, it was time to practice and work together to improve. The girls used to practice drills in the driveway and yard, seeing how many hits they could get without the ball touching the ground. It was an excellent combination – a setter and hitter that could practice together anytime they wanted.
On the court and in-game, Kendall is a peppy player who often keeps her teammates up. The future Shippensburg University player is a plus middle, playing sound defense and loves to swing at every ball.
Makenzy, a student of the game, starting watching college volleyball games and learning the game. James River coach Joe Sullivan said that she takes a tactical approach to setting and the game of volleyball, expertly running the Rapids offense.
“Makenzy wants to go out there and kick butt,” Sullivan said. “It’s great to see the sisters work together and it makes it easier as a coach not to have to deal with any sort of negative sibling dynamic because they get along so well together.”
Makenzy, or Tia, is more of a student of the game, while Kendall, or Tamera is out there trying to make everyone have fun, and play hard regardless of the situation.
Both Kendall and Makenzy have deep roots in football as well, as their father, D.L. Johnson is a long-time coach and currently the head man for Matoaca as it ventures into the playoffs for the first time since 2006. Often serving as team managers for their father, they can be found under the Friday night lights, wherever that may be.
As parents, another special facet of their daughters both playing for James River is Chuck Collins, the man the Rapid’s gymnasium is named. Collins was coaching Meadowbrook basketball and D.L. Johnson was an assistant. Collins was a mentor to Johnson and eventually got him into coaching today.
“For our daughters to play in the gym that has the namesake of the person who got Derrick into coaching is an honor,” said Felicia Johnson, the girls’ mother.
Fresh off a win over Cosby for the Conference 3 Championship, the Johnson sisters and James River will play host Woodbridge on Monday in Chuck Collins gymnasium as they continue their march to a title. The Titans will travel to face Colonial Forge in Stafford. The winners of these games will play in the Siegel Center for the state title.