BY ANDY ROWER | MIRROR SPORTS — After leading Maumee’s girls program to its highest win total in a dozen years this winter, senior guards Lauren Johnson and Alissa Schneider signed to continue their academic and basketball careers at the collegiate level on April 11.
The daughter of Michael and Tina Johnson and younger sister to Summer and Haley Johnson, Lauren will play at Owens Community College.
A three-year player for the Panthers, the 5-foot-4 Johnson totaled 556 points, 154 rebounds, 127 steals, 109 treys and 54 assists during her last two seasons.
Johnson said she has been playing basketball since she was in kindergarten.
She first began to play organized basketball in church leagues and then moved up to the Maumee Recreation League before playing for the Panthers at Gateway.
“A coach in elementary school challenged me one summer to dribble up and down my street with my left hand every day, all summer,” Johnson said. “That challenge made me realize that the only way I was going to get better was to practice every day.”
Johnson said it wasn’t until her days at Gateway that she began to realize she was doing better than many of the players her age.
“That’s when I knew basketball was my passion,” she said. “Due to my size, I was going to have to be the fastest player on the court and I was determined to perfect my shot – which meant running every day after school and shooting at least 100 baskets a day.”
Though Johnson played her sophomore season under then Maumee girls basketball coach Adam Russell, she started the last two seasons for coach Rod Hersha.
As a junior guard, Johnson established herself as one of the Northern Lakes League’s elite players.
Despite the Panthers posting an overall record of 5-17 that year, Johnson earned honorable mention from both the conference and the district.
“The NLL is one of the toughest leagues in the state, so it is frustrating to constantly be the underdog, but it makes it more satisfying when you do get the win or even when you get close to a win,” Johnson said. “The main thing I’ve learned playing any sport at Maumee is to never give up. We became a team that battled to the end – regardless of the score.”
The reputation was cemented the following season, and with roughly the same starting cast outside of freshman Brynn Brown, when Johnson and Schneider led Maumee to an overall mark of 11-13.
“Coach Hersha let Alissa and I know at the end of our junior year how much he was counting on us to improve over the summer,” Johnson said. “I took that very seriously and I joined Toledo Elite, which allowed me to play and compete at a very high level all spring and summer.
“I knew that in order to improve enough I was going to have to train hard all summer, so – as with any challenge put in front of me – I just did it.”
Johnson ended up setting new school records for most 3-pointers in a game with six, most 3-pointers in a season with 70 and most 3-pointers in a career with her 109.
“I think I really started taking my 3-pointers seriously in middle school,” Johnson said. “It didn’t take me long to figure out that most girls were taller than me and the easiest way to ensure that I scored was to take the three every chance I had.
“As soon as I knew that was my strength, I perfected it. My neighbors probably thought I was crazy when I measured and painted a 3-point line on the street in front of my house, but it paid off this year.”
Johnson also increased her assist total from her junior year by 22, her steals by nine and her rebound by six.
Her assist numbers saw the biggest boost due to the fact that opposing teams now planned their defensive schemes around stopping her the majority of the time.
“I knew every game that I was going to be face-guarded from the beginning to the end, and usually guarded by multiple players at any given time,” Johnson said. “At that point, I knew I had speed on my side, so I just did my best to get open.
“I love when the opposing coach calls a timeout and I hear my name coming from their bench. That’s when I knew I was doing well.”
The improvements she made led to Johnson being rewarded with third-team NLL honors following her senior season.
“It was my goal each year to go out and do better than the year before, so to do that was very satisfying,” she said.
That improvement helped catch the eye of the Express.
“I received a text from Coach (Stephen) Perry in February asking what my plans were for college and inviting me to come watch their next home game,” Johnson said. “I knew right away that Owens was a good fit for me and told him I was interested in playing for the Express.”
Johnson said she would major in criminal justice at Owens Community College.
“For as long as I can remember, I planned on being a police officer,” she said. “I also hope to coach in the future. I’ve always enjoyed working with children and I want to share my passion with them. I think between being a police officer and a coach, I can be a positive role model for so many kids, which will accomplish my own personal goal for myself.”
Johnson credits many people for the successes she has achieved up to this point in her life.
“My parents are always there to push me to get better and never give up, so I know I wouldn’t have made it this far without them,” she said.
“My coaches over the past several years have always encouraged me, especially Chuck Smith, Jyl McCarthy and most of all Rod Hersha. Coach Hersha recognized right away that I was determined to succeed.
“He always pushed me to give more and he knew what I was capable of – even when I didn’t. He believed in me like his own child. I don’t think I would have the opportunity to play at the next level without him.”
The daughter of Daniel Schneider and Candice St. Germain, younger sister of Kellie Guhl and Jake Schneider, twin of Maumee senior Justin Schneider and older sister to Blake and Ben Schneider, Alissa will play at Defiance College.
A four-year varsity player for Maumee, the 5-5 guard has totaled 424 points, 272 rebounds, 154 assists, 126 steals and 26 treys during her last two seasons.
Though Schneider played a bit of basketball growing up, she said she never actually “got into it” until the seventh grade when she was able to play for Gateway.
“I always knew I wanted to play sports because growing up that’s what I was surrounded by,” she said. “I watched my sister (Kellie) be a three-sport athlete in soccer, basketball and softball and I always went to my brother’s (Jake) football games where he was the star quarterback.”
Schneider played AAU basketball for Hoop Smart in the summer between her eighth-grade and freshman seasons and made Adam Russell’s varsity team, which went 4-18 during her first year of high school.
“When I made varsity and started my freshman year, I figured I was decent,” Schneider said. “But it wasn’t until Coach Hersha came along my junior year and completely changed me as a player that I realized my potential.”
Though Schneider said every basketball coach she ever had impacted her, she called Hersha the “most influential without a doubt.”
“Without him, I definitely would not be the player I am today,” she said. “He called me out when I wasn’t working as hard as I could. He yelled at me when I wasn’t shooting the ball. He was always honest in telling me when I had bad games.
“He never really complimented me on everything because it was what he expected out of me, and to me that meant a lot. He believed in me the most. He helped me build my confidence in myself.”
Schneider also singled out two more former coaches in Jyl McCarthy and John Kolbow.
“I played for Jyl McCarthy when I was little,” she said. “She understands that for kids playing a game it was more about learning the skills and having fun than it was about winning. She started my love for the game.
“When I was in the eighth grade I played for John Kolbow. He was one of the only people who knew what my potential was. He always pushed me to work hard and made sure that I didn’t give up on the sport when I went into high school.”
Before Hersha had arrived at Maumee, Schneider had been a post player.
“I never dribbled or shot the ball outside the key and then through long hours in the gym during the summer, I was able to handle the ball and shoot 3’s,” Schneider said.
After a solid junior campaign that resulted in honorable mention from the district, Schneider improved her skills even more over the summer by playing for Toledo Elite.
The hard work paid off, as Schneider bettered some of her junior statistics with 70 more points, 42 more assists, 36 more steals and six more treys. As for the Panthers – they won six more games than the previous season.
“Being a part of getting that many wins was a great feeling, but then again it was bittersweet knowing that we could’ve won many more games than we did,” Schneider said. “Maumee has been one of those schools where other people play us and expect to win, but I think this year we made them earn wins against us. I definitely think we got some respect back that we deserved.”
These improvements led to second-team NLL and district honorable mention honors.
“After the season, at the District-7 awards banquet, Coach Hersha asked me what my plans were for college and if I was interested in playing basketball,” Schneider said. “I had no idea as far as plans, but I said ‘yes’ about basketball. So, he made some calls and the next day I had a text from Defiance’s head coach. We set up a visit and the rest is history.”
In addition to her accolades on the basketball court, Schneider graduated from high school having also earned three varsity softball letters and two varsity volleyball letters.
She totaled 185 career digs while playing as a defensive specialist as a junior for coach Lindsay Vannett and as a libero earlier this fall for interim coach Angie Wannemacher.
Over that year, Schneider helped the Panthers improve from 3-21 to 9-15.
In softball, Schneider played a major role in a program that went 47-35, placed as high as third in the NLL and played in both the regional and district championship games.
While playing at both left field and second base over the past three seasons alone, she totaled 68 hits, 20 doubles, five home runs, 45 runs, 50 RBI and eight stolen bases. She batted .416 with 459 on-base percentage as a senior and posted a .574 slugging percentage as a sophomore.
“In anything I do, I’m always pushing to be the best I can be,” Schneider said. “Wanting to better myself, not only for my own sake, but for my teammates. I love being able to be a leader. The fact that my teams count on me so much holds me to a certain amount of responsibility. I love being the one my coaches and teammates can come to – even if it doesn’t have to do with sports.
“Sports kept me busy so I stayed out of trouble, got closer to teammates and I was able to become friends with other people from different schools. It also motivated me to do well in school.”
Schneider graduated with an impressive 4.14 GPA and plans to major in education at Defiance College, with hopes of someday becoming both a teacher and a coach.
She named her twin Justin – an accomplished member of Maumee’s football, wrestling and track teams – her parents and her teammates as three of her biggest influences.
“We have a bond that no one else has. He is always there supporting me and visa versa,” Schneider said. “He’s been there to rebound for me, help me hit and he even played volleyball with me. Without him I would not be successful and I wouldn’t be the person I am today.
“My parents are always another big reason for my success. They rarely ever let me have any days off – always discussing what I can do to be a better player.
“My teammates are the ones that make me want to be there and better myself. I want to be a better player for them. I’m with them sometimes more than my own family.”