Lake Norman & Mooresville

Coach comes back home, leads Vikings

When 22-year-old Tarrah Johnson walks the halls of North Mecklenburg High, she can easily be confused with a student.

After four years at UNC Wilmington, the 2007 North Meck graduate is back at the school as a teacher and volleyball coach.

"A lot of parents looked at me, and said, 'Oh, you're a coach here? I thought you were in 10th grade,'" said Johnson.

"At first, it was definitely a little weird being back as a teacher and a coach, but now I am pretty much used to it," said Johnson

Johnson is leading a resurgent Viking volleyball program, which has already won more games than it did all of last season, when they went 8-16.

The season was tough on the team after losing its coach, Sandi Skidmore, and most of its players to the newly opened Hough High School.

Johnson, who played for Skidmore during part of the coach's 11-year stint at the school, wants her Vikings to get back to their former glory.

"When I came back, a lot of people warned me that it wasn't the same program or type of team that it was when I played here," said Johnson, who replaces last year's coach, Collin Springer. "A lot of what I know about volleyball and about coaching comes from Coach Skidmore.

"My goal is to have my own program, my own style, but get back to the same level of success and excitement that we've had in the past."

Johnson and North Meck have already started turning things in the right direction.

The Vikings started the season with a 10-3 record, including 4-2 in the I-Meck standings, putting them behind only Hough and Lake Norman.

The Vikings are looking to be a factor in the conference race, as the second half of the season unfolds, and in the 4A state playoffs.

Johnson's boss and former teacher, athletic director Kevin Wilson, believes his new volleyball coach has what it takes to continue the turnaround.

"Tarrah is a strong personality without being overbearing," said Wilson. "She knows what is right, has high standards and has the ability to set realistic goals."

The Vikings have a balanced attack that starts with senior outside hitter Maddie Greer, who leads the team in kills, while classmate Emily Carmichael and junior Katelynn Granger have also been key.

Leading blocker Ebony Dixon, a senior, and sophomore Hannah Scheffer have been huge in the middle for the Vikings, while sophomore setter Jennifer Hart directs the offense.

Johnson says everyone on the team has improved their skills and gained confidence, which she said is just as important to the Vikings' success.

"When I first got here, I don't know if a lot of the players thought that this team could win consistently," said Johnson. "But I wanted to make this team believe in themselves again.

" think the players think they can beat anybody now. The more we do it, the more they believe."

For the players, having a coach they believe in is also important.

"Our motto this season is to bleed red and blue," said Hart, who leads the team in aces.

"Coach Johnson has bled red and blue as a North Meck volleyball player. She can really identify with what we're going through as players. She has made a big difference for this team."