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Summer play helping Johnson regain form – Tri-Town News
August 19, 2010

Summer play helping Johnson regain form

Tri-Town News
August 19, 2010

Brandi Johnson, a former standout on the Jackson Memorial High School soccer team, played a key role as the Jersey Shore Boca Under-23 team captured the Mid-Atlantic Summer Showcase League (MSSL) Cup for the second year in a row.

But it is an improbable summer for the talented center midfielder who had to overcome an array of physical challenges to help the team win nine of 11 games and become the first Boca team in the program’s 32 years to win back-to-back titles.

Johnson, who is preparing to start her sophomore year at The College of New Jersey, scored what proved to the wining goal in the Cup semifinals when Boca beat Howell United, 2-0. A penalty kick sealed the victory.

The Boca team knocked off previously unbeaten Quickstrike Soccer Club of New York, 1-0, to win the title. Jessica Davila of Middletown, who will also be a sophomore at The College of New Jersey this fall, scored the game’s only goal.

In 2009, Johnson played in the first six games for the Lions, starting one. She was slowed by injuries to her shoulder, quad muscle and hamstring, and then suffered a series of fainting spells that worsened in September and forced her to the sidelines for the rest of the season.

Her problem was diagnosed as neurocardiogenic syncope, a problem most prevalent with young women that lowers the heart rate and blood pressure that cuts circulation to the brain.

“It doesn’t happen when I’m on the field, but more when I’m standing and not as active,” said Johnson, who has since controlled the problem with medication, including medication that keeps her thyroid problem under control.

Add to that the asthma that she has had all her life, and it does not seem easy for Johnson to get on the field, let alone to perform at the effective level that she does.

“I was cleared to play soccer in the second semester [last year] and I will play this fall,” said Johnson, who is a journalism major at The College of New Jersey, which reached the NCAA Division III Final Four last season and had its bid for a fourth national title derailed by nemesis Messiah, 1- 0, to finish 20-3-1.

“I was ready to play last season, and it was all such a shock,” she said.

Johnson began working out in the spring to get ready to play again for the Boca squad and to get back in shape for the fall season, with workouts beginning this week.

“I felt pretty rusty because of my body slowing and I felt weak, but I worked at it pretty hard and came back quickly,” said Johnson, who relies on speed as well as skill from her days playing at Jackson Memorial when the team won the Shore Conference A South Division crown in her sophomore year, and in her junior year won the Shore Conference Tournament and reached the NJSIAA Group IV finals, losing to Steinert, 1-0.

This summer, Johnson scored six goals, including what proved to be the game-winner in the MSSL semifinals. Her determination earned the praise of Boca coach Charlie Cunliffe, who said, “Brandi Johnson is an outstanding player. Beyond her skills and physical prowess, Brandi is an analytical player. In a game, Brandi is not just playing soccer, she is also thinking soccer. That combination of mental and physical ability makes her an exceptional player, both on offense and defense.”

Johnson said she tries to orchestrate things.

“I do think I see the field well,” said Johnson. “I have played since I was young, and I played a lot on travel [including the Jersey Wildcats out of Princeton before embarking on her college career] and I am used to the game. I like to get everyone involved.”

Johnson said the key for her going forward is to be in top condition and to get back into the chemistry of her college team, which returns all but six players from last year’s third Final Four trip in four years. The Lions are scheduled to open the 2010 season in the Elizabethtown Blue Jay Classic on Sept. 4 against Bridgewater.

Published August 19, 2010
Tri-Town News