Five years ago, best friends and teammates Kacey Deterding and Maddie Johnson sat next to each other in a high school library and signed papers committing themselves to Lubbock Christian University and, essentially, to each other.
Finding yourself often means losing someone else. Growing up means growing apart. But Deterding and Johnson, who first connected on middle school basketball and volleyball courts in Lubbock, Texas, didn’t want to become friends-turned-acquaintances-turned-memories.
Today, neither regrets putting pen to paper.
“Our friendship is something meaningful, and we want to sustain it,” Johnson says.
High school sleepovers and late nights playing Guitar Hero gave way to higher stakes. As freshmen, the duo, both outside hitters, had to compete for one spot in the rotation. Johnson garnered more playing time that year, but a rift didn’t develop. Yes, there have been disagreements along the way and, no, they’re not glued at the hip outside volleyball, but a decade spent as teammates has solidified bonds that run deeper than anything superficial and new. When the effervescent Deterding, for instance, fools others into thinking no storms are rumbling inside, Johnson pulls her aside and asks what’s wrong. “She can see through the facade,” Deterding says. “She’s my oldest friend, and she knows all my strengths and all my weaknesses.”
Both have been named Heartland all-conference players. Both lost a season to injuries – a frightening bone cyst for Johnson, a torn Achilles for Deterding – and both chose to redshirt and play out their fifth years together. In their senior season, Johnson and Deterding finished first and third on the team in kills, respectively.
Through it all, they have appreciated watching each other blossom. Deterding insists Johnson helped her find focus and center her life through faith – “she’s always been a conscience for me” – and Johnson, a self-proclaimed introvert, says Deterding has pulled her, bit by bit, out of her shell. “I feel comfortable going places with her,” Johnson says. “She’s a buffer.”
A decade on the court has ended, and they will now find new lives: Deterding is
considering a career as a strength and conditioning coach; Johnson wants to counsel abused and troubled women. Time and distance may intervene as they often do, but “she’s always going to be there for me,” Johnson says, “and I’m going to be there for her.”