Volleyball Regroups After Tough Year

The 2011 season was one to forget for the St. John’s volleyball team, as the Red Storm finished dead last in the Big East (10-21, 1-11).

But fast-forward a couple of months and any complaining, fussing or crying about last year is replaced by the thunderous sound of volleyball balls slamming on the hardwood of Carnesecca Arena during frequent weekday practices, as the team trains towards their upcoming 2012 campaign.

“I can definitely say that we’re going to redeem ourselves,” said sophomore middle hitter Kerri Johnson. “We didn’t do as well as we’re hoping last season so we’re working hard.”

Head coach Joanne Persico doesn’t want to make any predictions about next season yet.

“I have been in this vocation long enough to understand that you make plans and God laughs at you and changes them,” she said. She did however, say they would commit to better results.

So during the offseason the team is building on what they lacked last year and looking to new leaders to “shine” while trying to rebuild the program, which captured three straight Big East titles from 2006-2008 and a Sweet Sixteen berth in the NCAA Tournament in 2007.

During each week the team meets for practices in the gym and also strength and conditioning training to help to increase the players’ overall stamina the offseason and keep in form.

“Once the season is over a lot of teams slow down and don’t really practice,” said junior libero Gabrielle Petkova.  “What we’re doing is coming everyday just to touch the ball, get the feeling and just keep in shape.”

“I know that if you do not take care of the ball and put constant pressure on your opponent in the Big East you will not win matches,” Persico said about the team working on endurance.

The team is also changing up their plays and creating new and unpredictable combinations to generate a stronger offense, what they believed was one of their major flaws last season.

“We watch video before every game and analyze the team, some teams do the same with us and we became predicable,” said sophomore right side hitter Yana Vavdiyuk.

But where the team has a big hole to fill is with the loss of five graduating seniors including middle hitter Darlene Ramdin, who received All-Big East Second Team honors and was a Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award Finalist. Ramdin leaves St. John’s at sixth on the all time kills list (1,234) and third on the all time blocks list (392).

“We’ll definitely miss talent,” said Petkova. “They certainly brought a lot to the team, but having so many people that graduate also opens the chance for new people to get more confidence in their game. It has its pros and cons.”

Persico agreed and identified her main players on the upcoming team as Petkova, Vavdiyuk, junior Ashley Asing, and junior setter Sabina Piegza, who helped the Red Storm with 758 assists in her first season at St. John’s last year.

Persico said she’s also very excited about a promising transfer player, middle blocker Milica Krstojevic from the University of Oregon. She said Krstojevic “will help us solidify our ability to close the offensive gap that Darlene left with her graduation. Mili is a strong vocal leader, who brings good experience to that position as she will be a senior.”

Along with Krstojevic, the Red Storm will be adding three players who signed their national letters of intent last year in Shawna-Lei Santos, a utility player from Hawaii; Briana Guzman, a middle blocker from New Jersey; and Yaidy Santiago, an outside hitter from Puerto Rico.

“We are very excited about the signing of this dynamic class,” Persico said in a release last year. “It features a great mix of unparalleled athleticism and highly skilled players, who are going to find the court early in their careers and make an impact for us as we search for our fifth Big East Championship.”