As a fall sport, women’s volleyball season is fast and furious. The women of Iona College are up to the challenge. Currently 13-6 overall and sitting atop the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference with an 11-2 record in conference play, the Gaels are looking sharp.
“I feel we’re building on our goals and becoming stronger, and that’s making us so consistent,” said junior middle blocker Karla Johnson. “[The vibe] on the team is great. Thirteen girls, we all get along. It’s a true blessing.”
Growing up in New Jersey, Johnson played basketball and soccer. In seventh grade, the volleyball coach from the local high school was at her middle school and asked her to attend an upcoming camp. She instantly fell in love with the sport. Watching Olympic volleyball on television and seeing the passion of the players made her that much more determined to excel.
“I liked how in volleyball, everyone is involved,” she said. “If you’re off the court, you’re involved cheering. I loved that overall environment.”
When it came to selecting a college, Johnson took both athletics and academics into consideration. She chose Iona for its family oriented atmosphere. New Rochelle is just far enough from New Jersey to give her the away feeling, but close enough that her family attends home games.
Since coming to Iona, Johnson said she’s become more versatile. The coach pushed her to become an all-around player. “I feel I’ve been learning over the years how to not just be a middle, but how to pass, how to serve, to be an overall volleyball player,” she said. “I’ve improved a lot.”
A broadcasting major, Johnson, an MAAC All-Academic Team Selection her sophomore year, said being a student-athlete teaches discipline and focus. “It helps me stay organized,” she said. “Volleyball really helps me with school.”
Her dream job would be sports broadcasting. Contemplating a minor in criminal justice, she would not be averse to reporting on trials or court news. Johnson is currently working with ESPN3, doing camera work and statistics and getting to see what goes on behind the scenes.
Johnson said Iona coach Patric Santiago tells the team that bench energy is crucial. “When I’m on the court, I feel when the bench is upbeat,” she said. “We’re all engaged together. We need everyone to be 100 percent in it.”