Karla Johnson and Ciara Michel both ended up playing volleyball by some “coincidental accident.” Now both are stars for the University of Miami.
Johnson started playing in Houston, Texas. At Aldine Westfield High School, Johnson was a three-year letter winner in track and field and volleyball.
Michel got her start in volleyball in the Miami scene, playing for Palmer Trinity School in the seventh grade. She was voted team MVP in 2001.
But who knows what would have happened if both Johnson and Michel had made their respective cheerleading squads in middle school?
“I was a cheerleader but when I tried out again in eighth grade I didn’t make it so I picked up a volleyball and started playing,” Johnson said. “My coach told my parents I should join a club team.”
Michel didn’t make her squad in the seventh grade either. Neither knew about their cheerleading experiences until recently.
“They told me I was too tall or something. Since I was staying after school anyways, volleyball was practicing at the same time as cheerleading, so I joined that,” Michel said.
Johnson may not be one of the flashiest players on the roster, but she has been known to come up big in pivotal matches. In her freshman season, she posted a career-high seven blocks to help the ‘Canes upset Wisconsin and advance to the Sweet 16. At the end of the 2003 season, she won the Unsung Hero award from the team.
Michel, in her first season of play for the Hurricanes, also contributed much to the team through her confidence.
“I would like to be a stronger force at the net,” she said.
As for a career after college, making a run at the AVP Nissan Series, the professional beach volleyball circuit, might be in the cards for these two Hurricanes.
“It’s always a possibility,” Michel said.
Rodolfo Tomarchio can be contacted at