By Ryan Murken
Your Prep Sports
TIFFIN – Sarah Johnson knew that something was wrong.
Her surgically repaired knee felt fine during some light jogging on the opening day of practice last season but the Clear Creek Amana goal keeper was still in pain.
Just five minutes into the first practice of her junior season Johnson told her coach something was wrong.
“I thought it was a heart attack,” Johnson said. “My chest just kept hurting.”
A trip to the hospital revealed it wasn’t her heart that was causing Johnson so much pain but instead it was a collapsed lung.
It was still another setback in what had been a difficult nine months for Johnson who tore the ACL in her knee playing club soccer in the fall and was cleared to resume running the day she ended up in the hospital.
“I just remember sitting at the hospital thinking one thing happens and then another thing,” Johnson said. “I was really bummed out because I wanted to help my team out and that was hard.”
Johnson didn’t stay down for long, in fact Clear Creek Amana coach Matt Harding got a surprise visit the following day at practice.
“She comes into practice the next day and she walks in and she has the chest tube hanging out the collar of her sweat shirt,” Harding said. “I was like ‘whoa’. She is just otherworldly.”
Nothing seems to keep Johnson down for long.
The knee surgery, collapsed lung and some tough losses have tried but according to teammates nothing can slow their senior stalwart in goal.
“Every game I don’t know how she gets up after some saves, she is our rock back there,” Bormann said. “I’d trust her through anything.”
Johnson has put her tough junior season behind her and picked up where she left off this season as one of the state’s top keepers.
The senior ranks third in the state in minutes in goal with 1,330 and has corralled 76 saves this season while helping Class 2A No. 10 Clear Creek Amana to a 14-3 record.
Johnson leads the Clippers into Tuesday's regional semifinal against Grinnell at 6 p.m. in Tiffin winners of six of their last seven.
“This year referees, other coaches are just amazed at what she can do,” Harding said. “A player like that the goals that she took away from them are goals that we don’t have to put on the scoreboard as much as the focus and the attention is on everything that Hannah (Bormann) and some of the attacking players do it doesn’t show up quite as clearly how phenomenal she has been.”
Johnson burst onto the scene as a freshman, quickly establishing herself as one of the top goalies around.
She allowed 15 goals as a freshman and just 10 as a sophomore while helping the Clippers to a combined 31-5 record during that span by posting goal against averages of under .90 each season.
Then came a junior year to forget for Johnson that started with the knee injury.
She was closing in on a return to the field as the season began the collapsed lung set her further back.
Johnson eventually returned for the final seven matches but wasn’t her normal self, allowing four goals in each of her first two matches.
“She kind of got thrown in the ringer last year when she came back,” Harding said. “We played two really tough games and I think the defense had really stepped it up when we had the backups in there and then kind of relaxed a little too much and she just got shelled so I don’t know what her total goals against for her career is but those first two games back are a significant chunk of it.”
Johnson has been back to her dominant self in goal this season.
She has five shutouts and has allowed one goal in seven other contests while posting a 1.564 goals against average.
“She surprises me every day,” Bormann said. “Even at practice she surprises me. She’s incredible.”
The return of Johnson in goal for the entire season has helped Clear Creek Amana post its fourth consecutive 14-win season during her career.
The Clippers enter regional play two wins away from its first state tournament appearance.
“That’s our goal and I think we can really do it,” Johnson said of state. All the girls are really dedicated. That is our number one goal we aren’t happy being at regionals we are thinking about state and that’s our top priority.”