Sept. 30, 2008

Boston, MA - Back in September of 2006, Emily Johnson stepped onto the UMass Boston tennis courts for the first time of her collegiate career and immediately identified herself as a competitor. The freshman transfer ended up winning her first match in straight sets, thus beginning her tenure as a mainstay at the top of the Beacons lineup. Competing out of the number two singles slot was asking a lot from the rookie, but everyone quickly found out she played like a veteran.

"When I first met Emily, I knew she was a competitor. She was very determined and played with an intense desire to win," said Eric Berg, Head Coach of the UMass Boston Women's Tennis team. "Her growth as a player shows up in each match and she continues to get better every time she steps foot on the court."

At Saugus High School, Johnson earned four varsity letters as the number one singles player and was named the team MVP her junior and senior year. She dominated match after match and was named a two time NEC All-Star for her performance on the court. After a tremendous career as a member of the Sachems' squad, Johnson decided to put tennis on the back burner for one year when she enrolled at the University of New Hampshire. Once she transferred to UMB in the fall of 2006, she hoped to continue her high school success as the newest member of the UMass Beacon's women's tennis team.

"When I transferred to UMB to be a nursing major and gain clinical experience at the best hospitals in Boston, I was excited to be at a D-III school where I could play tennis again," said Johnson. "I had more motivation than ever before to improve my game and compete at a collegiate level. I put everything into the team and I worked hard to improve my individual game, but also to help keep tennis program alive."

She finished that first season with the most wins for the Beacons in both singles and doubles play, and was the only member of the team to play in all 11 matches. Berg and her teammates recognized her hard work and appointed her as captain of the team for the 2007 season. Even with these accomplishments, Johnson was not satisfied and knew she could continue to improve her game.

In her sophomore campaign, the captain remained in the number two singles slot and was determined to bring her skills to the next level. She opened the season with consecutive wins in singles and doubles play and never looked back. By the end of her second year, she had accumulated six singles victories and tied a program record with nine wins in doubles action.

"The results did not surprise me because Emily works very hard at her tennis. She plays year round in leagues and tournaments to stay at the top of her game. She's very dedicated and passionate about the sport and her hard work is certainly paying off," said Berg.

With expectations high for the captain in 2008, Johnson has not disappointed anyone with her stellar play throughout the first month of her junior season. In dual match play, she has compiled a 4-1 singles record, two of the wins coming from the number one spot, which she was promoted to after her impressive play in the first three matches.

"I have always been extremely competitive and have worked hard at every task I take on in sports, schools, and in life. After playing well in the number two singles spot during my first and second season at UMB, I still never imagined I would be at the number one spot in college, but it's definitely a challenge day in and day out. This past year I worked much harder in the off-season than I'd ever done before. Right now, I'm playing smart points and stroking the ball cleaner. My footwork has improved and more importantly, my mental toughness has evolved. I have learned it is not just about physical skill, but knowing how to win; finding an opponent's weaknesses and capitalizing on them," said Johnson on her success this season.

With the most difficult part of their schedule behind them, things continue to look better and better for the Beacons' women's tennis team. Five regular-season matches remain and Johnson knows that the season is far from over. There is still time for her and the team to continue to improve and she's going to do her part to make sure that happens.

"My goal for the rest of the season is simple, it's to keep winning! I'd love to win the rest of my matches, but as long as I just play hard and battle each and every time we compete, I'll be satisfied regardless of the outcome," said Johnson. "My long term goal is to continue to help build the program, so that one day we will be in contention for the top spot in the conference. It's how our program will take the step to the next level. I want to do my part to make that happen."

So far, Johnson has certainly done her part in helping the Beacons reach the top. Now it's only a matter of time before they do.