Perry Hall star Johnson learns from lacrosse losses


For Kerri Johnson, there is no such thing as too much lacrosse.

That is why yesterday's high temperature, high humidity and pair of defeats at the seventh Maryland State Games did nothing to faze the metropolitan area's most prolific scorer.

Johnson, a 16-year-old center midfielder from Perry Hall, contributed three goals and steady draws in Howard County's 11-9 and 14-12 losses to the Bethesda All-Stars (mostly Virginia private school players) at the University of Maryland Baltimore County.

The defeats were just another learning experience, Johnson said.

"I could learn a lot more. Lots of players are better than me. I just look up to people like Christy Dial, Suzanne Waire [both Loch Raven] and Andrea Cuzmanes [Mount Hebron]," she said. "I look at them and know that I can be better."

A 'better' Kerri Johnson is not something opponents will be looking forward to defending.

As a sophomore at Perry Hall, she totaled 71 goals and 23 assists -- an enormous output for a midfielder -- in 11 games. That won her the metro scoring title by one point over Chesapeake-Anne Arundel senior Diane McBee, who played 15 games.

Tall, fast and able to use both hands with equal effect -- a rarity in the sport -- Johnson has scored 112 goals in two varsity seasons.

"The first time I saw Kerri play [as an eighth-grader] was indoors at Catonsville. I knew right then that she was a Division I player," said P. J. Kesmodel, the veteran coach of Mount Hebron and a former attackman at Severn School and Johns Hopkins.

"She's the best young player I've ever seen. Kerri has great speed and quickness, the willingness to learn and a great work ethic. She's just getting better and better. There's no telling what she could do in a stronger program."

Mike Goodwin, Kesmodel's assistant, coached Johnson yesterday and regularly coaches against her in the Howard County Hero's Inc. league.

"That is a challenge. I just put my fastest girl on her and try to deny her the ball, because if she gets the ball in the open field she'll score every time," Goodwin said.

"She has a great cradle, the use of both hands and the drive to always go 100 percent. Other girls slow down, but Kerri is always aggressive and always going to the goal.

"Last year, we put a permanent double-team on her and left one girl wide-open. That's the only way to stop Kerri."

Johnson credits her rapid development to Kesmodel ("He comes to our games and gives tips to all the girls"), Perry Hall coach Wendy Samuels and a strong athletic heritage.

Her three older sisters played sports at Perry Hall. Her father, Bob, starred in football and baseball at Calvert Hall, accepted a baseball scholarship to the University of Baltimore and later played professional football with the old Boston Patriots, the Washington Redskins and Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League.

"My father pressures me a lot," Johnson said. "He wants me to excel. Sometimes I find it annoying, but it does really help me and motivate me."

Johnson also plays soccer (she was Perry Hall's co-leading scorer last fall) and competes in five indoor track events. But lacrosse is the game.

"It's my favorite. It's the pace of a fast-moving sport that I enjoy. Also, I'm a lot more coordinated with my hands than with my feet," she said, grinning.

Johnson began to draw the attention of major college programs when she was still in the eighth grade. She will have her pick of schools when she begins preparing for a career as an athletic trainer or a nurse two years from now.

In addition to Johnson, Howard County had consistent scoring from Giovanna Webster (Mount de Sales), Cathy Nelson (Mount Hebron), Jill Altshuler (Catonsville) and Erin Welsh (Seton Keough). Lori Pasquentonio of Mount Hebron added a single score.

They were backed by several other Mount Hebron players, including Amy Fine, Erin O'Donnell, Stephanie Otto and Kate Mallon.

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