When the St. John’s volleyball team started off its season with a 13-4 non-conference record, there was little indication that the team would be vulnerable come the start of conference play.
But that’s exactly what’s happened, as the Red Storm dropped their fifth consecutive conference game at Syracuse on Sunday afternoon in straight sets, (25-16, 25-23, 25-20).
The loss drops the Red Storm to 0-5 in Big East play, and a 13-9 overall mark, having lost in straight sets to every Big East team they’ve played except for Villanova in their Big East opener on Sept. 24.
“We knew going on the road this weekend that it wouldn’t be easy, and we knew we had to play really good volleyball,” said head coach Joanne Persico. “We knew we needed to play a good match, and we fought hard. There were a few points where we needed our key players to kind of step up, and they had a few senior players that did a better job than we did.”
Although Persico was not happy with the loss, she said the tough times the team has faced serves as a learning tool for the Red Storm’s new players who are still getting acclimated to Division I volleyball.
“We’re disappointed of course, because we don’t want to lose matches, but I think at the same point, a lot of our new players now understand what this league is about and the leadership and skill set it takes to win matches,” Persico said.
Juniors Paulina Piegza and Anzelika Lukjanska led the team with seven kills apiece in the losing effort. Junior Alyssa Bennett had 26 assists, while sophomore Ashley Asing had a match-high 11 digs.
Bennett, a junior transfer this season from Robert Morris, is starting to see more playing time as Coach Persico is starting to adjust the team’s lineup to bring new energy to the floor, hoping to turn around the Red Storm’s poor Big East fortunes thus far.
“Alyssa’s been excellent,” said Persico. “We honestly didn’t get a lot of time with her to train her to be put right away into a Big East game and be thrown into the fire, so she’s done very, very well. We know we’re close, and we’re trying to change up the lineup a little, to get some new blood out there and some different vibes, some different mentalities and different energy.”
Although the Red Storm have lost in straight sets in all but one of their Big East matches, on Sunday they lost the last two sets by very close margins, by two points and five points respectively, which shows that closing out sets has been a problem.
“At the end of the match sometimes it looks to me that these teams have athletes that can go to another level, and we cannot,” said Persico.
But Persico knows the Red Storm’s Big East outlook can change with a win at Connecticut on Saturday afternoon.
“We don’t really look at our record, believe it or not. We take it one match at a time,” said Persico. “We know that we need to win a match in the Big East, so we’ll try to bring it back and get a win on Saturday.”