Kate Johnson doesn't need an exhaustive search for motivation when it comes to playing soccer.
The Valparaiso junior still possesses the game ball the squad received after a heartbreaking 4-3 regional shootout loss to Chesterton two seasons ago.
"It's sitting right out there (in the bedroom); I look at it every day," said Johnson, who scored two goals in the loss. "There have been times where I have thrown it in the closet. Just having it here pushes me."
Johnson remains driven to succeed, and she could be on her way to achieving that goal. She verbally committed to Indiana State in April. Now her sights are set on helping the Vikings, ranked third by The Times, become one of the better squads in the area.
In the season opener, Johnson had a goal and an assist in the Vikings' 4-0 win over Kankakee Valley. The Kougars ended Valpo's season a year ago with a 2-1 win in the opening round of the sectional.
"I just want to have another successful season," Johnson said. "We've got some amazing players on our team, and they're able to do so many great things."
Valparaiso coach Robert Cespedes believes his talented squad is fueled by Johnson's play-making ability.
"She can flick the ball really well in the defensive mid and move it out for us," Cespedes said. "She's such a down-to-earth player. She doesn't need to be the goal scorer. She's one of our most important players, however the stats don't always reflect that."
Johnson, who had six goals and seven assists for the Vikings last season, honed these skills with several years of play at the club level. Johnson said she began to take the game seriously when she was 8.
She played with the Chicago Magic for five seasons and spent the last campaign with Carmel United.
"I mostly try to do the same things, even thought I try to switch the ball more in high school," Johnson said. "I think (playing club) definitely helped my skills, it really helped me find what would work."
Johnson played forward at the club level at times, but she feels more suited for center midfield.
"I started to play (center mid) when I was 8, and I just love playing there," Johnson said. "I'm always facing the net, and I'm farther back in the offense. That gives me a chance to see the entire offensive end and create more chances."