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Long Beach State Obituary Volleyball Wilson

Obituary: Long Beach Volleyball World Mourning Janisa Johnson

Janisa Johnson: 9/22/1991 – 5/25/2024

Wilson and Long Beach State volleyball player Janisa Johnson passed away in late May of cancer at the age of 32. The Long Beach volleyball community was joined in its mourning by the wider volleyball world this week as Johnson’s family announced her passing on her Instagram page.

“In loving memory of Janisa,” reads the post. “We will never forget your beautiful smile. May your last jump be the highest.”

Johnson was a star at Wilson and at Long Beach State, as she drew fan attention for being a hyper-athletic 5’7” outside who could jump out of the gym. Her bright personality and smile drew people to her as well, and Johnson was part of an undefeated duo with Lakewood alum Tyler Jackson on the beach at LBSU. The duo were leaders for the Beach in their national championship season.

Matt Ulmer, now the head coach at Oregon, was the coach of the LBSU beach team and remembered Johnson fondly this week.

“She was so caring and loving and loyal and kind,” Ulmer wrote in a tribute. “Life was hard and she fought through it all. Was an undersized hitter who loved volleyball. Only had three Division 1 offers, turned that into an incredible indoor career, an undefeated college national championship beach season, and an indoor pro career where she was beloved by fans all over the world. Pound for pound as good of a volleyball player as you could find and the most entertaining.”

Johnson was diagnosed with colon cancer while playing overseas. She began her professional career with the Petro Gazz Angels. She led the team to its first championship in the Premier Volleyball League in 2019, and went on to play professionally in Poland as well. She stepped away from her career in 2021 after her cancer diagnosis, and returned to playing and wowing fans around the world after the cancer went into remission in 2023.

Unfortunately, the cancer returned and took Johnson away from the court once again. 

Her teammates and friends were left in shock at the loss of such a bright light in the local sports world with her family’s announcement of her passing.

“I’m truly in disbelief, I can’t even say anything right now,” said Jackson, who was Johnson’s national championship pairs partner and is now the director of volleyball at LBCC. “We’ll never forget you.”

Mike Guardabascio
An LBC native, Mike Guardabascio has been covering Long Beach sports professionally for 13 years, with his work published in dozens of Southern California magazines and newspapers. He's won numerous awards for his writing as well as the CIF Southern Section’s Champion For Character Award, and is the author of three books about Long Beach history.