The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

Five Set Thriller Ends 2023 Volleyball Season

The familiar foes used to battle it out in the Big East, but South Florida landed on top of this matchup.
Torch Photo / Isabella Cautero

After winning the opening two sets of what would become their final match of the season, the St. John’s Women’s Volleyball team fell to the University of South Florida in the Super 16 round of the National Invitational Volleyball Championship (NIVC) Tournament on Dec. 2. 

South Florida battled their way back into the game to sweep the back end of the sets. For the Bulls, sophomores Maria Clara Adrande and Buse Hazan led the charge with a combined 45 kills and five aces. Collectively the team acquired 68 kills with an attacking percentage of .290% and 11 aces. They were bested by St. John’s in the first two sets, which is where they racked up the majority of their 26 combined errors. 

For St. John’s, outside hitter Georgia Walther led the team with 17 kills, four digs and one block. Close behind her were Big East All-Conference players Lucrezia Lodi and Erin Jones with 10 apiece. Jones added on nine assists, eight digs and five blocks to her stat sheet. Lodi finished the match with four digs, an assist and a rejection. 

Sharing the spotlight was middle blocker Ludovica Zola with nine kills, hitting  52.9 percent on the night. Up top, setter Wiktoria Kowalczyk helped the team with 36 assists, six digs and two kills. In the back court libero Roshanny Solano-Smith had 15 digs, four assists and an ace in her service game.

The opening set of the match was defined by a multitude of South Florida communication errors as they let the ball drop on a few points from St. John’s serve. On the state sheet they out played the Johnnies in kills and attacking percentage with 15 and .314%, but the Johnnies delivered a gutsy performance and relied heavily on their back court defense to hold points together. At the end of the set they tallied 11 digs compared to the Bulls eight. 

Both teams opened the match up trading points back and forth. Halfway through the set, St. John’s went on a four-point scoring run capitalized by Zola, Walther and Lodi to bring the score to 14-10. South Florida would continue to battle back and close the gap, eventually bringing the score to 20 all. With the score at 23-22 in the Johnnies favor, they allowed for the ball to drop in the back court and tie it up once more and force St. John’s into a timeout to regroup. Middle blocker Magda Stambrowska would answer the call and slam it down for the Red Storm to take the one point lead, followed by an ace by defensive specialist Bree Martin to close out the first set, 25-23. 

The second set, 25-21,continued to be a battle of back and forth exchanges of points. After steadying an 8-8 tie, the Red Storm pulled away with their first lead of the set and went on a 5-0 scoring run off of a string of kills led by Zola and an error for the Bulls. South Florida would continue to battle back, but St. John’s would maintain their lead and hold off the pressure from Adrande and Hazan to finish out the set altogether. 

By the end of the second set St. John’s was performing with a .412% attacking rate, and matching the Bulls with 28 kills. They outplayed them in blocks with six compared to their two. 

Momentum began to shift for the Bulls during the third set, even with the set starting out with alternating points once again. The Johnnies first lead brought the score to 17-15 before South Florida would be able to tie up the score to 18 all. From there, the Bulls would lure the match away, starting off with a 5-1 stretch of scoring. South Florida finished the set, 25-19, with an ace. 

With seasons on the line, it was clear that neither team was going to give up the fight to win it all. The fourth set opened up with another seesawing exchange of points, and saw Hazan leading the Bulls with 15 kills and becoming vocally apparent on the court. She helped them take their first lead of the set and brought the score to 12-10. Lodi would answer with a huge kill off of an assist from Solano-Smith and Jones to bring the deficit to only one point. Each team continued to deliver on both ends of the court, laying it all out on a few diving plays. A net violation from Lodi brought South Florida to the 20-point mark, but Jones and Zola would keep the Johnnies in the game with two kills in a row. 

Still back and forth, Jones would take the serve. On the return Solano-Smith provided a huge dig in the back court that set up the kill for Stambrowska to bring it to 23-23. A missed serve from South Florida brought the set to match-point, but the Bulls answered with two more to bring it to their own set-point. South Florida climbed back to finish the set out, 27-25. 

South Florida pulled off the fourth set in a gutsy and determined set, leaving St. John’s to appear defeated and overpowered going into the fifth set changeover. The Red Storm quickly fell behind 5-1 in the opening string of the game, but Walther responded with four straight kills on her own to tie it up. Stambrowska would also come up with two late kills to help the Johnnies keep South Florida from match-point. Tying the frame at 14 each, South Florida would deliver two-straight points, including another kill from Hazan and a missed kill from Walthers to finish out the set 16-14. 

St. John’s finished their 2023 season 24-11 overall. They notched in their second straight appearance in the NIVC Tournament, including their first time hosting, and the teams third appearance in the Big East title match in program history. In her 30th year as head coach, Joanne Persico was named American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) East Coast Region Coach of the Year on Dec. 5. Erin Jones was also selected to the East Coast All-Region Team after being named to the All- Big East Team as a unanimous decision and collecting 13 double-doubles in her sophomore season. 

Leave a Comment
More to Discover
About the Contributor
Isabella Cautero, Asst. Sports Editor
Isabella is a junior journalism student serving as an Assistant Sports Editor. She is minoring in sport management. Outside of The Torch, she likes to spend time with her friends, read, go to the gym, play with her dog and watch the New York Yankees or Rangers play. On any given day you can find her listening to her favorite artists, Taylor Swift and Harry Styles. 

Comments (0)

We love comments and feedback, but we ask that you please be respectful in your responses.
All The Torch Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *