This Week:

Tiffany Johnson Arundel, Sr.

Volleyball Middle Hitter The first time Arundel senior Tiffany Johnson stepped on the volleyball court three years ago, she simply was trying to get in shape for basketball. Since then, the 5-foot-11 Johnson has ditched the sport she had played since age 7 to compete at one of the toughest positions in volleyball.

As the middle blocker/hitter, Johnson leads the unbeaten Wildcats (5-0) in kills (47) and blocks (21). She not only has emerged as one of the best players in the Washington area but was rated by a national volleyball Web site as among the top 100 seniors in the country.

That Johnson has excelled at a position that requires speed, vision and explosiveness is a testament to hard work and her desire to learn the game that she began playing seriously in her sophomore season.

"She is one of the most athletic, if not the most athletic player, I have ever worked with," said Towson University assistant coach Ian Blanchard, who coaches Johnson's club team, Time Out Orange Crush 18s, which finished third in the national division of the USA Volleyball National Championships in June. "She comes to practice ready to go and is extremely competitive."

Johnson is responsible for blocking the opposing team's middle hitter, a task that requires her at times to move quickly from side to side on the court in anticipation of a hit. She also must be able to make the quick transition to offense, communicating with her team's setter, who will deliver the pass that Johnson will try to convert into a kill.

The complexity of the position and the ability to be central to the action are what attracted Johnson to the sport.

"I love hitting the ball, and the adrenaline that comes from it," said the 17-year-old, who unofficially has committed to play at Kansas State. "I love how quick it is. It is so fast."

When she first took up the sport, Johnson admitted she relied on her athletic ability to carry her. Her vertical approach -- the height she reaches above the net on a jump -- nears 10 feet. Blanchard said Johnson also possesses enormous power in her swing on kills.

But she also has learned to expand her skills as she has honed her technique. She now varies the speed and placement on her kills, has learned to become more explosive on her blocking jumps and has even seen action on the Wildcats' back line, where defensive prowess is crucial. She has recorded 29 digs this season and improved her serve, notching 12 aces.

"I've really enjoyed the challenge of learning a new sport," Johnson said. "The more I kept playing, the more confident I became."

Senior Tiffany Johnson leads the unbeaten Wildcats (5-0) in kills (47) and blocks (21). "I love hitting the ball, and the adrenaline that comes from it."