Tower power
By IAN BUSBY -- Calgary Sun

Volleyball co-captain Neil Johnson prefers not to say much on the volleyball court.

But that doesn't mean his teammates don't perk up when the power hitter decides to add in his two cents.

"When he talks, our guys stop dead in their tracks," said first-year Cougar head coach Ryan Marsden. "He's one of the most amazing off-court leaders. On the court, he doesn't have to say it, he just does it."

Johnson recently returned from Poland, where he led Team Canada's standing disabled volleyball team to a gold medal at the world championships.

Missing his left hand and forearm since birth, Johnson, who stands 6-ft. 5-in. tall, is nevertheless a force in the ACAC and with Team Canada. His Mount Royal teammates also count on his skills as a leader.

"That just sort of comes with the players and coaching staff selecting me as captain," Johnson said. "That wouldn't happen if they didn't respect what I had to say. I'm also good friends with many of them and it's a lot easier to listen to friends. It's also easy to listen to a guy who listens to you."

The world championship gold was sweet revenge for Johnson, who was on the team that had to settle for silver at the 2000 Paralympics in Sydney.

Canada defeated Germany, the same squad they lost to in Australia, in a semifinal and then walked through Poland in the final.

"I've never seen our team play like that before," Johnson said. "No team had a chance. We just totally clicked. We were very happy with the way we played."

Johnson doesn't set but he can pass with one hand and the prosthetic he wears doesn't affect his blocking.

"Obviously, it's a disability but he looks at it as an advantage. People try to take advantage and he just turns the table on them and goes after them," said Marsden.

The Cougars took bronze in the ACAC last season, losing in the provincial semis to eventual national champion Red Deer.

It was a disappointment but has left the returnees with increased focus for "They haven't accomplished what they wanted to do last year," Marsden said. "They just got bronze and that's the way they feel about it. I don't expect them to be in championship form yet but we're working towards that."

The Cougars have a home-and-home series with Lethbridge this weekend and are on the road tonight.

COUGAR ROAR: The cross-country team won the overall gold medal at the ACAC championships last weekend in Calgary, with the men placing first and the women second. The team will be the favourite going into the inaugural CCAA national championships next weekend in Red Deer ... Men's hockey forward Moe Halat needs two points to become the all-time Cougar scoring leader. Mount Royal plays at home against Concordia tonight at Centennial Arenas (7:30 p.m.) ... The basketball teams open their season with a home-and-home against Medicine Hat, concluding with tonight's contests. Women play at 6:30 p.m., the men at 8 p.m. in the new Triple Gymnasium.

"Those who seek to predict the future... might first look to the past. The past is a mirror -- and those who ignore its sometimes dark reflection, are doomed to repeat it... Will it be those seeking redemption who shall decide the future... or will those driven only by greed and envy shape our destiny? Even a hundred years later, the outcome is still very much in doubt. .." Outer Limits(Heart's Desire)