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The days of Ashley Johannigman’s athletics career at South Decatur are slipping away, and you can bet her opponents can’t wait until they are over completely.
Johannigman, a senior three-sport athlete, has become the face of the Cougars. Her look could best be described as determined.
South Decatur might be a small school, but opponents know they face a huge battle when Johannigman leads her team onto the volleyball or basketball court, or the softball field. That has been the case year, after year, after year.
“She has that ‘in-your-face’ attitude, and it makes her hard to stop,” said South Decatur girls basketball coach Jessica McConnell, who has the good fortune of coaching Johannigman, the school’s all-time assists leader. “She has that air around her to do better than everyone, and she shows it every time she’s on the court.”
Johannigman, a powerful power forward, has a simple philosophy: “I play every game like it is my last,” she said.
Those who stand in her way, well, they might just get run over.
“I admit I make mistakes,” said Johannigman, whose temperament could be described as fiery. “I foul too much. If I can keep my focus on the game and not let anything frustrate me, then I’ll be OK.”
While opponents have a hard time stopping Johannigman, referees sometimes do.
“There are points where things can get real frustrating,” Johannigman said of drawing fouls. “I’ve never been a fan of calls that don’t go the team’s way.”
But if she isn’t a perfect player, she has been perfect for the South Decatur athletics program.
“She works hard, and is an incredibly tough player for us,” Cougars softball coach Lisa Huff said. “She has worked incredibly hard to get to where she is right now.”
South Decatur volleyball coach Lisa Bennett agreed.
“Johannigman always had her game face on,” said Bennett, whose team went 22-10 as Johannigman earned all-Mid-Hoosier Conference honors. “She never settled for second best, and she expected everyone else to give as good of an effort as she did.
“Very rarely do you see a smile from her when it comes down to a rivalry, or a postseason tournament. She is the type of person who would be first in line for drills. She could always drive herself and her teammates to be better.”
That drive was established at an early age. Her mother, Peggy Johannigman, was a three-sport athlete at Jac-Cen-Del High School.
“My mother always told me she loved to compete,” Johannigman said. “She has always been the one to push me to another level when I play.”
Peggy Johannigman pointed her daughter toward basketball first.
“We had her play basketball at a young age,” Peggy Johannigman said. “To have coaches come up to us then and tell us that she has a gift was awesome.
“I was a competitive athlete and to see her grow to what she is now in sports is just amazing. She loves to win and she takes the game very serious. Once she gets her game face on, there’s no stopping her.”
There has been no stopping her for years at South Decatur, but graduation is half a basketball season and one more softball campaign away. Her athletics career isn’t likely to end with her graduation, though.
Earlham and Albion are collegiate programs that have shown interest in Johannigman, who isn’t going to focus on the next level just yet.
For now, she has to find a way to help South Decatur to improve on its 4-6 overall and 2-3 Mid-Hoosier Conference basketball standing. That means hard work and being aggressive.
“I’ve played basketball since I could walk,” she said. “The more I play, the better I want to be.”
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