Volleyball team drops first home game to Villanova

Throughout the non-conference portion of their schedule, the St. John’s Women’s volleyball team cruised to its best start since 2007, going 13-4 behind a 7-0 home record.

But the Red Storm knew the Big East portion of their schedule would present a major challenge, which became evident on Friday night when they dropped their Big East opener to Villanova in four sets, (25-19, 25-21, 22-25, 25-22), for their first home loss of the year.

Although Villanova won in four sets, the final two sets were decided by three points apiece, presenting a silver lining for head coach Joanne Persico.

“It was a close match, we’re talking three points, we’re not talking about a lot of points,” said Persico. “There’s a few things we need to work on, but overall I thought it was a good match. I wish we would’ve come out on top, but we need to work on a couple of things.”

Junior outside hitter Darlene Ramdin led the way for the Red Storm, racking up 10 kills in the losing effort. After a week of preparation for the match, Ramdin said the team wasn’t surprised by what it saw from Villanova, a team that had won ten straight matches entering the game.

“We prepared thoroughly for this game,” she said. “We prepared all week for this game.  We knew what was coming at us. I don’t think we gave it our all. We took too long to come back [after losing the first two sets].”

Sophomore setter Gabriela Petkova had 28 assists and 16 digs. Anzelika Lukjanska also had nine kills, and 11 digs.

Persico attributed the loss to a very low team hitting percentage of .083, which was due in part to Villanova’s strong defensive play.

“Our hitting percentage was low, and that had a lot to do with Villanova, they dug us a ton,” Persico said. “I didn’t think our passing was good enough to run the middle attack, so we had to run outside a lot, which forced us to be predictable.  They’re really good diggers (Villanova).”

The tough Big East schedule will only get tougher for the Red Storm, as they will have to spend the next week working on their mistakes before taking on No. 25 Cincinatti Friday at Carnessecca Arena, a team not only ranked in the AVCA Division I Coaches poll, but also the team that was picked to win the Big East conference in the preseason coaches poll.

“We’re going to have to look at the film. We’re going to have to serve a lot better, and probably will have to dig a lot better, and make sure we get to those easy balls,” Persico said. “There are some hits that are not diggable, but there are other plays where you can play it up, and those are things we have to work on.”

“I’m not down at all about [the loss to Villanova]. We just have to keep pushing forward.  I know it’s going to get a little tougher before it gets better, but we’re really working hard.”