Volleyball cruises past Saint Peter’s

The women’s volleyball team continued its hot start to the season by defeating Saint Peter’s (0-1) in just three sets at Taffner Field House Monday afternoon.

Snagging a sweep of the Peacocks in their 2014 season home opener, the Johnnies (16-16 in 2013) now sit at 4-0 on the season, having lost just one set in four matches. Head coach Joanne Persico, in her 21st season at St. John’s, now finds herself nine wins shy of her 400th victory.  Predicted to place fifth out of ten Big East teams in the Preseason Coaches’ Poll, Persico will be dependent on her core group of juniors to carry the team, which features eight freshmen.

“We have a class of juniors now who have played together for a couple of years so they’re growing as a team,” Persico said following Monday’s win. “They play more mature volleyball than in the past and they understand what it’s about at this level.”

Two of those juniors include defensive specialist/Libero Shawna-Lei Santos and setter Deniz Mutlugil. Santos led the match with 12 digs in addition to two service aces. Mutlugil had 20 assists to lead the match and help the Johnnies complete an overall dominant sweep of the Peacocks (25-9, 25-19, 25-11).

Another key junior includes outside hitter Karin Palgutova, who was just one of four non-seniors on the Preseason All-Big East Team. She led the team with 16 kills against the Peacocks, picking up right where she left off last season when she led the Big East with 510 kills and a 4.36 kills per set average. Last weekend, she led the Red Storm with 36 kills on 4.00 kills per set to open the season at the Bryant Hampton Inn-vitational.

“Last weekend’s tournament was pretty good,” Palgutova said after defeating Saint Peter’s, reflecting on the team’s play thus far. “…And this game was perfect for us to practice combinations and free balls.”

However, the Johnnies will face a bit more of a challenge this coming week. The team’s talent will truly be put to the test as they head to Hawaii, the “mecca of volleyball” as Coach Persico put it, for the Hawaiian Airlines Wahine Volleyball Classic.

“We have top ranked teams there,” Persico said. “We have a final four team in 2012 in Oregon, we have a great Hawaii team at home, and we play a very good New Mexico team who has made the NCAA. So that’ll be a true test for us for what we have to work on before the Big East starts.”

The Johnnies will begin the tournament in Honolulu on Thursday, Sept. 4.