It’s been an up and down season for the St. John’s volleyball team so far and the Columbia Invitational corresponded with that flow.
After the Red Storm were riding high on wins from the first two games of the tournament, they came back and lost the final two on Sept. 17. They first fell to Iowa during the day, 3-1 (21-25, 25-18, 21-25, 18-25) and then at night to Columbia, 3-1 (25 -18, 25-27, 21-25, 23-25), placing third in the tournament.
The Red Storm dropped to 9-8 on the season and 1-3 in away games with the losses, just before the start of Big East play.
“[We] can’t seem to string it together, you know, but they’re fighting,” head coach Persico said about her team. “The schedule is tougher than it’s ever been for us.”
Coming off loss against a strong Iowa (10-3) team earlier in the day, the Red Storm took on Columbia, who entered with a 5-4 record.
With the teams tied at a set apiece, St. John’s tied up the third set, 20-20, but then the Lions went on a 5-1 outburst to win the set.
“In the second set I think [Columbia] said hey we’ve got to step up, because if we don’t, we’ll get down 2-0 and then it’s hard to come back from that,” Persico noted. “So they stepped up, we breathed out a little bit and next thing you know we’re struggling at the end of the match trying to find a rhythm.”
In the fourth set the Red Storm battled the Lions once again evenly – with 15 tied scores—until they were tied at 23-23, then Columbia scored the final two points to win the match.
“When it’s going point-for-point, point-for-point, we need some experienced people, some seniors, to make a play and get the momentum to hold a serve for more than one point,” said Persico.
Seniors Darlene Ramdin and Paulina Piegza led the team with 13 kills each, and junior Sabina Piegza helped with 42 assists and 11 digs for her second double-double of the day, but their efforts still amounted to a another loss.
Earlier in the day, the Red Storm was down one set to Iowa but showed life by winning the second set through defense. They limited the Hawkeyes to only nine combined kills in that set, but just as they started to find a groove, the Hawkeyes got them out of it.
The Red Storm lost the next two sets only holding the lead once for a brief moment in the third set, and they never held a lead in the fourth and final set.
“I think they are a very athletic team,” said Persico about Iowa, “they were jumping high and they could hit over our block.”
In the loss, Ramdin had 14 kills. Senior Paulina Piegza had 11 kills and her twin sister junior Paulina Piegza, landed another impressive double-double, collecting 50 assists and 19 digs. Freshman Aleksandra Wachowicz also matched Ramdin with 14 kills.
“Aleksandra is been coming along real nicely and we’ll look to get her more time,” Persico said.
The Columbia invitational was the last test for the Red Storm before they enter Big East play against Louisville on Sept. 23, but Persico isn’t too worried.
She said “Right now we’re tired, but we’re also excited, because we’ve played a lot of volleyball.”