By Aryn Johnson

This series is brought to you by United Dairy Industry of Michigan.

Volleyball is a battle on so many different levels.

When you step out on the court, you want to make sure you are surrounded by people that have your back.

People that will lay it all on the line.

Day in.

Day out.

Here at UNT, I have that.

Every day.

One person, in particular, has been by my side well before I ever started representing this school — Ceci Harness.

The bond I have with her is so special and dates all the way back to high school.

The sister I never had

In fact, I’d call her the sister I never had.

We were both members of the same varsity team in high school and even competed together on the same club team, the Houston Juniors Volleyball Club.

She was the setter.

I was the hitter.

And we were already a great combination back in the day.

She knows where I want the ball, where I am, and how I think.

It’s half the battle in volleyball, and we’ve been crafting this partnership for many, many years.

We even started our collegiate careers at McNeese State together — another chapter in our long list of memorable experiences as a pair.

Today, I’m just beyond blessed that we both found our way here to UNT and get to further hone in on our passion and love for this sport.

Every time I go out there, just knowing that my best friend is right there with me, along with my other teammates and an entire community that wants to see us win, means the world to me.

Coach Porter

As you can tell from just reading through these first lines of my story, both Ceci and I first played at McNeese State.

One of the main reasons we committed to that school was Coach Porter.

But things just didn’t pan out.

After my freshman year, Coach Porter got hired as the head coach here at UNT — and Ceci and I followed along.

But, it was more than just us following Coach, you know?

Personally, I was looking for a certain environment. An environment that allowed me to excel as both an athlete but also as a young woman.

As a 5’6 hitter, you’re often looked down on, (no pun intended) and so many people have questioned my ability to be a force on the volleyball court, simply because of my size.

Coach Porter was never one of them.

In fact, she always told me that I could be so much more. She never doubted me and gave me the confidence I needed to evolve as a player.

And I think that’s what makes a good coach and mentor. Someone who sees more potential in you than you.

This kind of support is so important to me.

It really helped take my game to the next level.

So, when it was time to make a decision, honestly, joining Coach Porter and Ceci here at UNT was a no-brainer.

And today, I can easily say that it was the right decision for me.

Every time I go out there, just knowing that my best friend is right there with me, along with my other teammates and an entire community that wants to see us win, means the world to me.

Culture is everything

But, of course, there are always doubts and uncertainties, you know?

Transferring comes with a risk.

What if things don’t work out?

What if I don’t fit in with my new teammates?

What if the culture isn’t what I’m hoping for?

Thankfully, these concerns were laid to rest quickly.

I’ve loved every minute here at UNT. Coach Porter is definitely leading us in the right direction, and I couldn’t be more excited about the program, my teammates, and overall atmosphere.

One of the many things I really cherish here at UNT is the community’s support. They genuinely love volleyball here, and we can feel it every time we step out on the court.

It feels like we are all in this together — and there is no better feeling.

Change is hard, and it’ll take time for everything to click 100%, obviously, but with a friend like Ceci and a coach like Coach Porter, it feels like anything is possible for us.

I’m just so thankful to have this second chance.

Whatever the rest of my collegiate career brings, I won’t forget this.

But for now, let’s show everyone what we’re capable of.

Let’s do this!