The last time Southridge forward Heather Johnson faced the Hanford Falcons in a CBBN 3A girls soccer match, she got a taste of her own medicine.
The top-ranked Suns and No. 5 Falcons were tied 5-all after 90 minutes of regulation and overtime. But with starting goalkeeper Ingrid Stein still injured, Southridge coach Greg Sambrano called on Johnson to step in as the Suns' shootout goaltender.
"It's a lot of pressure. I totally feel for them now. It's scary and nerve-wracking," said Johnson, who went on to make a save in Southridge's eventual 4-2 shootout win.
For the last four seasons, that's how opposing goaltenders have felt with the 2010 3A Player of the Year bearing down on them. When Johnson does get a shot on goal, her success rate is staggering.
Never miss a local story.
With three games left in the CBBN 3A regular season, Johnson is sitting on 97 career goals. Only two other players in Big Nine history -- Meotis Erikson of Kamiakin (132 goals) and Hope Solo of Richland (109) -- have reached the 100-goal mark, and Johnson is a virtual lock to become the third.
"That would be a huge accomplishment," Sambrano said. "But if you were to ask her, she's probably more concerned with her team winning."
He's right about that. She scored 31 goals last season, the most in the Big Nine since Solo netted 36 in 1998, but she also led the league with 19 assists as the Suns finished third at the 3A state tournament in Lakewood.
As a senior, she's continued her staggering work rate, leading the CBBN 3A with 27 goals and 13 assists.
"I don't see any girl in the league who works that hard," said Pasco coach Justin Carey. "She's relentless. When she loses a ball, she gets right back on it. Every girl on the field can strike a ball on net, but she can do it with four girls trying to crush her."
Johnson is honored to be mentioned in the same sentence as Solo and Erikson, who set the Big Nine record with 42 goals in 1995, but she would much rather be remembered for her hard work than for her numbers.
"To be up there with those two is a big achievement, but I don't want to have my goals handed to me. If I reach 100, I want it to be because I earned it," Johnson said.
It's not often that Johnson gets to step away from soccer. When she's not playing for Southridge, she's playing for Bill Frisbee's Three Rivers U-18 Velocity squad. The intensity she brings to the game takes a lot out of her, so naturally, she needs a way to recharge her batteries.
When she does get away -- camping in Tucannon with friends and family or spending time with her horse, Tattoo -- she revels in the peace and quiet of not being the most targeted forward in the entire state of Washington.
"I just get away from the soccer world, just forgetting about it for a weekend," said Johnson, who was also named the CBBN 3A MVP in 2010.
But once she comes back to the pitch, she delivers a full complement of speed and strength, plus a healthy dose of grace and fury.
"I come back, and I think, 'I miss this,' " she said.
Sambrano hasn't been shy about playing Johnson at different positions in crucial situations. In addition to playing goalkeeper at Hanford, Johnson has also played in central defense with the game on the line, as she did in a 3-2 win over Kamiakin.
"She could be whatever she wants to be at whatever time she wants to," Sambrano said. "Thirty-one goals last year was a sick number, but she did a great job getting teammates involved. She understands how important she is to the team, but at the same time she knows involving her teammates in our success is important as well."
Kamiakin coach Chris Erikson has coached the Braves since Big Nine girls soccer started up in 1987, so she has seen all the top players in the league for the last 24 seasons. She thinks Johnson is right up there with the best of them.
"She's got the whole package. She's got size and speed, and her tactical awareness is terrific. She's dangerous in all aspects of the game," Erikson said.
"I remember Meotis and I scouted (Johnson) two years ago before we were going to play them. I told her, 'Come on. I've got to figure out what to do with her,' " said the longtime Braves coach. "Meotis watched her for a while and said, 'Good luck, mom.'
"I said, 'Thanks, you're a big help.' "
After completing her high school career, Johnson will begin the next phase of her soccer career at Gonzaga, where she accepted a scholarship to play next fall.
"That really takes the pressure off. But I still have to work hard to keep improving as a player," she said.