Friday, January 22, 2021
Just seven Gopher Conference volleyball players were named second team All-Conference and NRHEG senior outside hitter Kendall Johnson was one of them. Here she hits the ball over the outstretched arms of Hayfield’s Maryx Young who was named first team All-Conference.

Panthers earn honors

It was a volleyball season unlike any other and that’s especially true for two New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva (NRHEG) volleyball players, but for a much better reason than COVID-19.

That’s because senior Kendall Johnson was named second team All-Conference, while fellow senior Grace Tufte was named All-Conference Honorable Mention for the second straight year.

Johnson accumulated 82 kills, 112 digs, seven blocks, eight assists and eight ace serves in just 12 games.

In addition to second team All-Conference, she was voted team offensive MVP and recipient of the Panther Award, which NRHEG Head Coach Onika Peterson said is awarded to someone who always gave it 100%, hustles in practice and in games and always makes her teammates better.

Meanwhile, Tufte amassed 162 assists, five kills, 64 digs and six ace serves.

Beyond their statistics, she said these girls’ effort, commitment to self-improvement and leadership make them deserving recipients of their respective honor.

“Both of these girls have been hard workers for our volleyball program. Their peers look to them for their leadership on the court. They were two-year starters and shared the role of captain their junior season,” she said.

Their experience starting as juniors, Peterson said, played a big role in their improved play this season.

“By having a year of varsity under the belts they were more confident and consistent this season,” she noted.

They were better players this season despite going through an unconventional offseason.

“Grace played fall ball this season with a Junior Olympic club out of Mankato. Unfortunately, due to a positive COVID case this summer we were unable to have our regular summer schedule workouts,” she said.

Even the disruptions caused by COVID-19 couldn’t stop both girls from continuing to be ambitious students. In fact, Johnson and Tufte were two of the Panthers’ five seniors who received Academic All-State honors--which was awarded to senior athletes who had a cumulative GPA of 3.8 or better.

Even though they’re decorated high school volleyball players, neither girl plans to continue to play the sport at the collegiate level.

Peterson mentioned that Johnson is still choosing between a couple of schools and is planning on majoring somewhere in the STEM field and Tufte is planning on attending the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Business and is going to major in accounting.





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