Volleyball dominant in West Coast sweep

Keisha Raymond, Staff Writer

The St. John’s women’s volleyball team swept through the competition at the Saint Mary’s Invitational as they came home with wins over Bethune-Cookman, Fresno State and St. Mary’s.

They opened up the tournament by sweeping Bethune-Cookman in straight sets (25-17, 25-11, 25-17).

The Red Storm’s (5-2) defense was the key factor in the win as they held the Wildcats to a zero hitting percentage.

St. John’s had a total of 37 digs and eight blocks on the day as sophomore libero Delaney D’Amore and senior setter Deniz Mutlugil had career days. D’Amore led the Johnnies defense with 16 digs (career-high), while Mutlugil had 25 assists and three service aces (career high).

Senior outside hitters Karin Palgutova and Yaidy Santiago were instrumental as they contributed nine and eight kills each. Freshman Pelin Aroguz had a coming-of-age type of game as she had nine kills and a .278 hitting percentage.

“We played a solid match tonight from the start and had strong contributions from Aroguz, [Julia] Cast and Santiago to lead the way,” St. John’s head coach Joanne Persico said.

Day two of the Saint Mary’s Invitational saw the Red Storm defeat the Fresno State Bulldogs, 3-1 (25-19, 25-19, 11-25, 25-20).

St. John’s had five players with five or more kills. Respectively, Outside hitters Palgutova and Aroguz had a stellar match versus the Bulldogs.  Respectively, Palgutova had 18 kills (season-high) with a .351 hitting percentage and Aroguz completed a career high 11 kills plus a .429 hitting percentage.

“We got a terrific win with Palgutova and Aroguz leading the way. I am so proud of the team and how they fought through that fourth set to get the victory,” Persico said.

Also contributing to the Red Storm victory were middle blockers Danisha Moss and Julia Cast. Moss came up with five kills, a career-high .714 hitting percentage, and five blocks. Cast had six kills, four blocks, and a career-best three service aces.

In the fourth set, there were 10 ties and each team had the lead at some point. The Johnnies would go on a 5-0 run to end the match and won 25-20.

In the championship round of Saint Mary’s Invitational, the Red Storm won against host school Saint Mary’s in an instant classic.

“That was one of the best performances of any St. John’s volleyball team that I have ever coached. I’m incredibly proud of my team,” Persico said.

With the score 2-2 going into the fifth set, Palgutova had an attack error in the middle of the fifth set to give the Gaels a 10-9 lead. The Red Storm took the lead back when Palgutova recorded three consecutive kills  that forced the Gaels to call a timeout. After the timeout, the Red Storm and Gaels would tie six more times. Aroguz would complete two kills to help Red Storm win the set 17-15 and claim victory.

The Red Storm had a .326 hitting percentage, which was a season-best and also had 76 kills.

Palgutova led the Red Storm with a career-high 31 kills, .362 hitting clip, 16 digs and three blocks. Senior setter Deniz Mutlugil had a season-best 60 assists to help key the victory.

Aroguz and freshman Lexie Lobdell played a major part in the victory. Aroguz got 11 kills and a .292 percentage. Lobdell had 11 kills, .385 attacking percentage and six digs.

Palgutova’s impressive weekend garnered her Big East Player of the Week honors.

The Red Storm will next be in action for the Jack Kaiser Volleyball Classic starting on Sept. 11.