Johnnies are Dancing Again

The St. John’s women’s basketball team heard its name called on Selection Monday for the third straight year and will be heading to Norman, Okla. for a first round matchup against Creighton.


“It’s a great feeling and I’m really proud of the kids and the program for being able to do it three times – that is a tremendous accomplishment,” said Barnes Arico, who is leading the Johnnies to the tournament for the fourth time in her career. “Not only
to make the tournament three times, but also to get a No. 3 seed, it’s really impressive. We have had a lot of quality wins and the ladies stepped up to the challenge.”


The Red Storm hope that three is the charm this year for more than one reason.  This is the third year in a row that the Red Storm have made it to the tournament.  the team earned the No. 3 seed in the Fresno region – the program’s highest seed ever. And three victories will be necessary for a potential rematch seek revenge against No. 1 seed Stanford, who ousted them a season ago.


After a year of big victories against schools including Top-10 teams Connecticut and Rutgers, the Johnnies won’t be satisfied with a first-weekend end to their tournament run.


“It’s different now because we have experience of going to the second round and losing,” said junior Nadirah Mckenith. “So we’re just trying to prepare and at least make it to the Sweet Sixteen this year.”


The Johnnies took in the “Selection Monday” festivities at BowlMor Lanes in Times Square, where they bowled a few games, got a meal, and sat down with brackets in hand to see where they were headed.


When all was said and done, St. John’s learned they would be matching up with the No. 14 Blue Jays, where the players and coaches on this year’s team will look to build on past success.


“They’re experienced, they’re mature, and they’ve been there before.” Said Barnes-Arico, “It’s not about just getting there.  That was our goal a couple years ago: just get to the Tournament.  Now they want to do some damage, they want to make an impression upon the teams we play, and they want to move on.”


Following a rough start to the season without senior D’Ashena Stevens, the Red Storm have peaked at the right time. And they will look to Stevens and the other veterans – four starters have NCAA Tournament experience – to lead them in this year’s Big Dance.


“Experience is key on this team – we have a lot of key returners – and we’re playing the best basketball since I’ve been here at St. John’s,” said McKenith, “We had some key wins against some big name schools, it’s been a great year, and we’re going to have a great run in the NCAA Tournament.”


Experience will come in handy not only against Creighton, but in the second round where they may match up with host school Oklahoma.  If they get that far, the Johnnies know that they’ll be in a hostile environment.


“It’s a different kind of atmosphere,” junior swingman Shenneika Smith said, “We have to keep ourselves together and make sure we work together and do everything together. It’s going to be loud so we have to help point guard Nadirah McKenith out with the play calling.”


The hopes are high for the Red Storm as they look to add one more achievement to an already historic season.  Smith summed up what was at stake for her and the rest of the team.


“You’re playing for something bigger than yourself,” she said. “You’re playing for a National Championship.”