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Erin Johnston defines role, follows older sister’s footsteps

Photo by Olivia Qualls

Photo by Olivia Qualls

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Four years ago, Meegan Johnston, a transfer from the University of Illinois, used her sophomore year to settle in and carve out a role for herself in head coach Markus Roeders’ system.

Sixty-two appearances in 63 possible matches later, and Johnston was in the stands for the team’s alumni match against Providence. She watched as her younger sister Erin began to emulate her success.

The 5-foot-4 midfielder/forward has appeared in 14 of the team’s 15 matches and is emerging as a key role player on this year’s roster. She had her first career goal against Mercer Sept. 3 and had an extremely close call the week before at Louisville. The shot missed by inches, instead rifling off the crossbar. 

Erin Johnston’s stat line is far from what fellow forwards Carrie Madden and Darian Powell put together, but at this stage in her career, Roeders doesn’t need that level of production from her.

“Now she’s filling in nicely in the role we need her to play coming off the bench,” Roeders said. “She has some versatility, she strikes a good ball.”

Both sisters experienced the same general role in their first competitive season with the Golden Eagles. Meegan had one goal and one assist in her first season, the same stats that Erin currently has with four matches left in the season.

“She’s starting to kind of establish herself. People are noticing things that she’s doing, so that was similar to me,” Meegan said. “I came in my sophomore year and got some minutes and started to kind of make an impact.”

Erin’s success comes after redshirting last season. With stalwarts Morgan Proffitt and Liz Bartels taking up minutes, it was obvious she wasn’t going to have a large role on the team if she remained eligible.

“I think it was a good year for her to redshirt just because of the players that we had,” Roeders said.

The redshirt season gave Erin a chance to learn from her older sister and a lifelong role model.

“I’ve always looked up to her as a player growing up, just because she’s older and experienced,” Erin said. “I like to base what she does well and try to do that too.”

With three years of eligibility remaining after this season, Roeders sees plenty of potential in the Grayslake, Illinois native.

“Hopefully she can keep growing, and as she gets a little bit older and a little bit wiser and a little bit better understanding of, ‘OK, this is what it takes day in and day out,’” Roeders said. “Her impact is going to be greater and greater.”

“It’s fun to see that. I’m excited about what she’s going to be able to do,” Roeders said. “She’s still a young player, so give her a little bit of time to flourish and understand her role a bit better.”

Even though Meegan is no longer lacing up her cleats for matches every weekend, she has had a front row seat for her younger sister’s success this year, attending nearly every home match this season. Ironically, one of the few games she hasn’t been there for was when Erin had her first career goal.

“I actually wasn’t able to be here,” Meegan said. “I was at a family party.”

Scrolling through her Twitter feed, she found out the big news.

“When I saw the tweet come in, my entire family went crazy,” Meegan said. “We were all celebrating. We’re all really close and supportive of each other, so that was awesome.”

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