The small but enthusiastic student section started the chant pretty early last month in Huron’s volleyball game with visiting Skyline. And it came after one of those monster spikes that Huron senior Molly Johnson has become famous for delivering – especially in big moments.
“We got Molly … we got Molly … we got Molly,” they shouted out during the SEC Red Division showdown between city rivals – won by Skyline for those at home keeping score.
Huron certainly does have Molly, a big hitter with a big heart who, as her coach points out, comes up big in big spots. But the River Rats didn’t always “have Molly.” In fact, Skyline used to “have Molly.”
“I go to Community (High School) and my first two years I played volleyball at Skyline,” she said. “I didn’t start playing volleyball until eighth grade and played freshman volleyball my first year at Skyline and then played varsity at Skyline as a sophomore.”
She moved over to Huron as a junior and immediately into the starting lineup.
“It wasn’t too difficult of a switch because I didn’t go to school at Skyline,” she said. “A lot of my friends I grew up with did go to school there and I don’t get to see them anymore and that’s been tough. But some of the girls on this team I played club volleyball with so I knew them and that helped with the transition.”
Johnson, who started her club career with Huron Valley and now plays for Michigan Elite, got her start in volleyball relatively late, serving up the sport in middle school.
“I played soccer up until eighth grade and then my dad (Tom), who played volleyball for like 20 years, convinced me to try it,” said Molly. “He kept pressuring me to play and I didn’t really fall in love with it until my freshman year.”
Toney Cummer has won a lot of games in his 16 years as head coach of the Huron volleyball team. He’s seen a lot of good players come through the program and play at the next level and Molly Johnson is certainly one of those elite players.
“We’ve had her two years now and we were very fortunate to have someone at that level come into our program,” Cummer said. “She’s a huge competitor and it seems against the best opponents and when the lights are the brightest is when she is at her best.”
Johnson’s late start in volleyball has just speeded up the improvement process and Cummer has had a front-row seat to watch her progress develop in a short amount of time.
“Her development has been so fast over the last three or four years and that alone has been pretty amazing to see,” he said. “She also has room to grow. She’s not there yet but she will be soon enough. She works hard at it and takes training and playing very seriously.”
Johnson also has a personality that his just as impressive as her play above the net.
“She’s a really humble young lady,” Cummer said. “She’s a really good teammate. She just comes in the gym, works hard and does her job. We’re glad she is here with us.”
She won’t be with Huron or Skyline next year.
“My recruiting process was a lot different than others because I didn’t really care where I went,” she said. “I went up to Michigan State and fell in love with it right away.”
Johnson then headed down to South Bend, Ind., to visit another school.
“Yeah, I went down to Notre Dame the week after and just didn’t get the same vibe I got at Michigan State,” said Johnson who is considering either pre-med or archeology, two very different fields that have interested her for quite some time.
While the green and white colors will be the same, going to East Lansing from her hometown came with a little harmless teasing.
“I heard a lot of bad things about Michigan State but that’s because I live in Ann Arbor,” she said laughing. “But it’s such a good school. I heard from some people that when you go on your visit you will know where you want to be and that’s what I felt when I went up there.”
But before she becomes a Spartan, there is still work to do as a River Rat, including another match with her old school Skyline in Friday’s District championship (first serve is 6 p.m.).
“We are doing pretty well, better than I think most expected,” she said. “We all have great team chemistry and we all love each other which is nice. Our setters know what to do, we have a really good libero and everything has just clicked for us.”
The goal right now is to win on Friday.
“We want to win Districts after Saline beat us last year to end our five-peat in Districts,” she said.
One thing is certain when these two teams take the court. Molly will be playing for Huron and the chant “we got Molly” will more than likely make an encore appearance in the District final. And it will probably come after one of those big spikes at a big moment in this big game.