Yasmeen Johnson’s move to middle helps Mundelein

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Mundelein’s girls volleyball team has had to make a few moves to get the most out of Yasmeen Johnson’s skills.

Hoping to reach .500 by the end of the season (the Mustangs were 5-11 through Sept. 11), Mundelein coach George Dressen moved his star senior to the middle for a tournament in early September. Johnson and the Mustangs responded by winning three of their first four matches after the switch.

“In the last tournament, she had 14 kill blocks,” Dressen said. “She is a strong hitter and the team is better with her in the middle.”

Mundelein upended Harlem and Resurrection during the tourney and stopped Waukegan for the other victory Sept. 9.

Playing the middle is nothing new for Johnson, one of the team’s two captains. She handles those duties for her club team and hopes the experience at the position will help her when she plays for Emory University in Atlanta next year.

“I really enjoy it,” Johnson said. “It gets me closer for more blocks and passes. When I get a pass I’m always looking to put it away.”

Dressen’s lineup change has also made setter Trina Neukam more productive. She recognizes Johnson’s skills and said having her play in the middle makes the most of them.

“Yasmeen has incredible vertical skills,” Neukam said. “Her speed up front lets me get quality sets. It also puts bigger blocking [potential] up front. When she’s in the front row it helps me a lot. She’s really smart player so when I set her she will find places on the floor to score points.”

Johnson started to play volleyball in sixth grade and soon began to prefer it over other sports. When she gets in her zone, it usually means more points for the Mustangs.

“It’s something a little different,” Johnson said. “It’s a different feel from other sports. When I go out there I get it in my head, I’m going to get the block.”

Johnson’s move to the middle has moved Sidney Brunkow and Monika Bowser on the outside. The rest of the starting lineup includes McKenzie Kehr, Kayla Denson and Cindy Kokoszka. The team has nine seniors but few with varsity experience, according to Dressen.

When Johnson’s repositioning opened a spot for Brunkow, a sophomore, it created even more opportunities for Neukam.

“It gives us a more aggressive front,” Neukam said. “It creates opportunities because [the other team] is not ready for the ball.”

Dressen said he hopes the changes will lead to more than a few more victories.

“We want to get our record to at least .500,” Dressen said. “We want to win the regional and make a run in the state series.”

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