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Thursday, November 24, 2016, 5:32 pm

Before they were Vols: Coco and Taylor

Yesterday we looked at the seniors leaving us after four years in Knoxville. Today we’ll look back at two players who have spent the last three years here on Rocky Top, what was said about them as they started their college careers, and what they thought about coming to Tennessee.

CLAUDIA COCO

cocoCoco attended Chattahoochee High School in Johns Creek GA. Her team advanced deep into the state tournament in each of her four seasons. They played for the title her freshman and senior years and made it to the final four and final eight in her sophomore and junior seasons. She set the state and national high school record for career digs. Coco made All State twice, was named the Georgia Defensive Player of the Year, was named a PrepVolleyball national Defensive Dandy every season of her high school career, and she was named to four All America teams: Max Preps (First Team), Prep Volleyball (First Team), USA Today (Third Team), and Under Armor (Honorable Mention). She played club for A5 in Roswell GA, where her squads came in third at the AAU Open National Championships twice. She also earned AAU All America honors.

Patrick: “I’m very excited about Claudia joining our program as she’s a player who is homegrown in the Southeast playing for the very successful A5 volleyball program. She’s one of the top liberos in the country as she broke the official Georgia all-time digs record and the unofficial national record. She’s a tremendous defensive presence who will bring a great passion and competitiveness to our team. She is someone who will continue the great lineage of defensive players that Tennessee has had.”

PrepVolleyball: “Her defense repeatedly frustrates and denies the opposing teams’ best hit. Spot-on defense, great reading, anticipation, consistency, speed and tremendous tenacity are Coco’s trademarks. She is a fearless defender who can take over a match. She is not afraid, has a tremendous work ethic and really likes to compete.”

Club coach Blair Boyle: “Claudia is an athlete with an immense passion for the game. Claudia is disciplined and determined. She takes pride in her role as a libero. She pushes herself to work harder each time she steps on the court. She pushes her teammates to be their best and always knows no matter how hard she works, there is more she can do to make herself better. As we all know, liberos don’t get much recognition. This is a libero you cannot help but stop and watch play.”

Coco: “I absolutely loved what I saw at Tennessee from the team and the coaches, it’s close to home and they have a great journalism and broadcasting program, which is what I want to do. I’ve always considered myself a decisive person and once I decided on Tennessee, I just wanted to make it official.”

TAYLOR JOHNSON

johnsonJohnson, a transfer from Long Beach State, attended high school at Chaparral High School in Temecula CA. PrepVolleyball named her an honorable mention on their top freshman in the country list. Her senior year, the school earned a berth in the playoffs. Johnson was a four-time All-Conference selection. PrepVolleyball added her to their Senior Aces list of the top 250 recruits in the country. She also played beach volleyball. According to UT she “was the 2011 AAU/USA Volleyball L.A. Open gold medal champion”, “AAU/USA Beach Volleyball Southern Pacific Champion”, “2009 AAU/USA Jr. Manhattan Beach Open Champion”, and “two-time Best of Beach Qualifier and three-time State Championship CBVA Qualifier”.

High school coach Pat Manning: “She is an intense and competitive player who still has fun playing the game. That allows her to bounce back from mistakes.”

PrepVolleyball: “A lefty who hits with power and also sets”, an “effective dual threat”, and “a top beach player”.

Johnson: “I love the culture. I love how the fans get into it. I love our team, I love the teammates. I like how we come together as a team to play.”