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Preps

Pain won't hold back Johnson

By LAURA LEE
Published June 9, 2004

Jasmine Johnson has heard better news.

In the same month she graduated from Countryside, she found out she has a torn anterior cruciate ligament and torn meniscus in her knee, an injury she might have played with the past two years.

The better news: She was selected to play in this weekend's third annual McDonald's All-American soccer game in Carson, Calif.

Despite pain every time she plays, Johnson, 18, said the diagnosis won't keep her from playing in the televised game Sunday at the Home Depot Center, a stadium that seats 27,000.

"When I'm on the field, I don't feel it," she said. "I kind of block it out. I'm so used to the pain."

Johnson, a Florida signee, is one of 36 girls and 36 boys selected to this year's McDonald's All-American teams. More than 1,000 seniors were nominated by members of the National Soccer Coaches Association of America. She is one of three Floridians playing for the East girls squad.

One of the East team's two coaches is Land O'Lakes' Vicky King. Selected as the Division II or small school national coach of the year, King knows this game is as good as it gets. "I just know they're the best players in the country," she said. "This is the biggest game that they could play in."

Known as a player who can out-run anyone on the field, Johnson has worked hard to be recognized for more than just her speed. Her move from forward to center midfield helped prove her skill.

Johnson played her first two years of high school soccer at Clearwater Central Catholic and thinks she may have first injured her knee on the Marauders' 2002 run to the state final four. A doctor told her she had torn cartilage and she continued to play.

After transferring to Countryside, Johnson didn't play soccer her junior year and played just the second half of this past season because of academic ineligibility. Despite her faulty knee, she continued to play club soccer, helped lead Countryside to the region finals where the Cougars lost to Palm Harbor U. and secured a scholarship at Florida.

She did not know her ACL was torn until last month when the Florida coaches had her checked by their doctor. Johnson said she expects to have surgery before the end of the year and she probably will redshirt her first season.

This weekend she joins such elites as Boston College signee Kia McNeill, the NSCAA/adidas national player of the year, and Satellite's Ashlyn Harris, a North Carolina signee who has played goalie for the U.S. under-19 national team since she was 15. "This is kind of big time," Johnson said.

[Last modified June 9, 2004, 01:00:39]


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