Wisconsin-Milwaukee volleyball Head Coach Susie Johnson will be making a special trip to Pocatello this week.
Bengal fans may remember her by a different name, Susie Ketchum. She played at Idaho State from 1988-91 and was named Big Sky MVP in 1990. She remained the only Idaho State player to earn MVP honors until this last season when junior Lori Mendenhall took home the honor after an outstanding 2012 campaign. Johnson will be in town this week to present Mendenhall her MVP award during halftime of the men’s basketball game against Portland State this Saturday.
Johnson has been a coach at Milwaukee for 16 seasons and has been the head coach for six. She has helped lead the panthers to nine NCAA tournament berths and 13 seasons of 20 wins or more. Her teams have won 12 regular season titles and she has been named Horizon League Coach of the Year four times. In 2009, she led UWM to its first undefeated Horizon League season in 17 years and a school-record 18-match winning streak.
During the 1990 season at Idaho State, Johnson tallied 1,398 assists as well as 34 service aces, 463 digs and 79 blocks. She totaled 264 kills and sported a .315 attack percentage.
That season, Idaho State finished 22-10 overall and 14-2 in Big Sky play. The Bengals defeated Montana 3-2 in the Big Sky final, earning its third trip to the NCAA tournament. ISU faced UC Santa Barbara in the first roundand lost 3-0.
Johnson is looking forward to making her first trip back to Pocatello since she was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2003. She was pleasantly surprisedto get the call from current head coach Chad Teichert, asking if she would like to come out to present the award. “I was really honored,” Johnson said. “It was very emotional and very thoughtful for him to ask. I think it is a really neat way to tie in the significance of the award. I was very flattered and I cannot think of a higher honor as a former player. I am really excited to meet the team. I am very proud and excited at the team’s success and that they’re ready to win.”
Johnson looks back on her time at Idaho State with fondness. ISU and the support of the community made Pocatello a special place to play.
“My goal was always to play Division I volleyball,” she said. “ISU was my chance to do that and when I look back I realize how lucky I was. My time in Pocatello was a great experience. The community embraced volleyball and we had a lot of support fromother athletes on campus. My teammates and I had a lot of fun on and off the court and the game didn’t seem like work. It was the right group at the right time and everyone was willing to work.”
Following her career at Idaho State, Johnson, who was a true student of the game, began pursuing acareer in coaching. She attributes that career choice to her experience at Idaho State.
“Playing at Idaho State taught me how to channel my competitiveness and it is when I truly learned the game,” she said. “I was really involved as a player in competition and strategy. When I was done playing, it was really hard to be done.”
Johnson considers former Milwaukee head coach Kathy Litzau and Jon Potter’s twin brother, Jay Potter, mentors in her career. She also considers her former coach, Jon Potter, to have been a major role model for her career.
“Jon had to be very creative and designed his drills and line-ups to get the very most out of his players,” Johnson said. “He taught us to be competitive in practice and how to enjoy the competition. I try to do the same thing with my team. I learned a lot from him.”
Johnson is a native of Racine, Wis. and lives there currently with her husband, C.J., son Ty, daughter Josie and stepson Brody.
Johnson will present Mendenhall with her MVP award during halftime of the men’s basketball game against Portland State Saturday. The game begins at 7:05 p.m.