Nov. 20, 2008
By MARK SCHMETZER
In her 25 years as the University of Cincinnati women's soccer head coach, Meridy Glenn might have had easier recruiting tasks -- but it's not very likely.
Jenn Johannigman did not need to hear that the Bearcats were interested in seeing her continue her career in Clifton to know that she was attending UC. When it comes to the red and black, Johannigman doesn't just wear it. She bleeds it.
"I didn't even need to go on the (campus) tour," said Johannigman, a senior midfielder. "I just wanted to be at Cincinnati for college. When I was being recruited, I didn't care about visiting other schools. I knew I wanted to come to UC. Once I toured and came on my visit, it was a done deal."
Take the tour? By the time that was on the schedule, Johannigman probably could have guided it. Nicknamed "Jo Jo," she grew up on Greater Cincinnati's West side and graduated from Seton High School, where she was named first-team all-Girls Greater Cincinnati League as both a junior in 2003 and a senior in '04.
Most of Johannigman's fervor is inherited. Her father, James, is a UC graduate who got her started early. Her mother, Marion, is a graduate of Oak Hills High School, where the school colors are red and black.
"We were big sports fans," Jenn said. "We watched the football and basketball games. Our basement is all Bearcats. I liked watching (2000 consensus Player of the Year) Kenyon Martin, and I was a big fan of Melvin Levett. It was kind of bizarre. All of these guys I looked up to were big celebrities. Then I come here, and there they are, at the same study tables. I remember thinking, `I thought the world of these athletes. Now, I'm one of them.'
"Everyone describes me as being prideful. I have university pride. When I go to (other teams') games, I'm not the loudest fan, but I'd like to think I have the biggest heart."
Just to make sure all of her bases were covered, Johannigman did give passing interest to other programs. She visited Dayton, knew the Miami (Ohio) and Xavier campuses from visits with her club team and heard from Duquesne, but it really was no contest.
"I knew I wanted to stay local," she said. "It was important to me that my family was able to come to my games. The atmosphere here and the coaches and players who took me around added too much to what, for me, was already great."
The 5-foot-3 Johannigman was immediately inserted into UC's lineup as a freshman, playing in all 18 Bearcats games and starting 17. She scored a goal in her first collegiate match, against William & Mary, and ended up leading the Bearcats with six goals and 12 points, including one in a 2-1 overtime loss to their biggest rival, Xavier.
She started 13 of UC's 18 matches as a sophomore and played in 15 before missing the final three with an injury. She played in 17 of UC's 18 matches last season and started 16, logging four assists.
This season, under new coach Michelle Salmon, Johannigman had two goals and two assists in the Bearcats' first 12 games, and scored the game-winning goal in a 2-1 win over Michigan on Aug. 29.
"Our team is now an attacking-style team," she said. "We `defend' going forward. Our shots on goal have increased this year over past years. Our style has changed. We're getting more opportunities. We're shooting more and getting the ball in front (of the goal) more."
"Our coach is organizing our style of play through our strengths. We know, having (junior Andrea) Kaminski in goal, that we're definitely able to play around in our system. We know there's a few things that still need to be sorted out, but we're getting there."
Johannigman takes as much pride in being a UC student as she does in being a Bearcat athlete. The communication science disorders major has gone from not knowing what she wanted to major in as a freshman to being a three-time Topcat Scholar, which goes to any athlete with a grade-point average between 3.5 and 4.0, and three-time Bearcat Scholar, awarded to athletes who achieve grade-point averages between 3.0 and 3.49.
"When I came in as a freshman and sophomore, it was a little rough," she recalled. "I wasn't sure what I wanted to do, and I was a little nervous. Coach Glenn helped me. I told her I had a few majors in mind, and she sent me to meet with an advisor. I knew I wanted to be around people and help, and now I'm focusing on speech pathology."
"Everything got sorted out. I hope to stay in the Cincinnati area and work with children."
Of course, staying in Cincinnati -- where her favorite teams play -- is a priority. Johannigman sees season tickets in her future and wouldn't mind being more closely involved in some way with UC athletics after her playing days are over.
"I'm kind of sad," said Johannigman, who is facing the final two regular-season home games of her career against Villanova on Oct. 24 and Georgetown on Oct. 26. "This is my senior year. Soccer will be over. I don't know what to do. I definitely want to keep soccer part of my life."
The university couldn't ask for a better representative. Just ask freshman defender Aimee Bux -- a native of Pottstown, Pennsylvania -- who drew Johannigman as a host when the recruit made her official visit to the campus.
"The visit was really good," Bux recalled while traveling with the team by bus to DePaul for a BIG EAST match. "She made me feel really at home. She welcomed me, basically, and told me how the soccer was. She's one of most dedicated people here."
"She talked about the football and basketball teams and how good they were and how UC is in sports. Her apartment is all UC stuff."
Bux already had visited Ohio University, so she could make a comparison.
"It was an OK visit, but I didn't get the same sense," she said. "The recruit host I had didn't talk much about the team or the sports there, and I'm a big sports person. I liked the campus at Ohio, but Cincinnati's campus is more involved and it's not so spread out. I felt a lot better here. "(Johannigman) showed me and my family around. She made it seem like it was a great place, and that's how it's turned out."
That's how the UC experience also is turning out for Johannigman. The promise turned into reality.
"It's been great," she said. "I've loved every minute of it. What makes it better is that I've played so many minutes since my freshman year. That helped out with the experience. I really feel like I'm part of a team. I feel like the whole athletic family is close. I've made friends with a lot of the athletes from the other sports."