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

Looking to Be a Smashing Success

The 2002 women’s volleyball team is looking to improve on its 18-9 record (6-6 Big East) of a season ago, and advance to the Big East Tournament, a place they have not been since 1996.

Led by Head Coach Joanne Persico-Smith, the Red Storm will look forward to a strong 2002 season.

With four starters returning, including Meaghan Creedon, Rosalyn Dang and Robyn Kurasaki, newcomers Jackie Ahlers, Yana Ruban, and Dimitra Samas will step into the starting rotation for the Red Storm.

“I’m excited about the team because I think they are working hard and I think that you will see a big improvement in them,” Persico-Smith said.

Last year, the team began the season 15-2, including winning the UB Morgan Classic and SJU Classic. St. John’s lost seven of their last 10 games to finish a disappointing 18-9.

“I’m looking for some leadership from Rosalyn, Robyn and Meaghan,” Persico-Smith said. “I’m looking for those three to carry most of the load in terms of keeping the ball control consistent, helping the freshmen quickly grasp the plays and trying to keep the team steady and strong in the final minutes of a pressure game.”

“All three of us try to lead by example as much as possible,” Creedon said of herself, Kurasaki and Dang.

Kurasaki returns for her junior year as the Red Storm’s anchor. “My role on the team is to lead the offense,” Kurasaki said. In the past two seasons, Kurasaki has tallied 2,441 assists, second on the program’s all-time list.

Last season she played in all 99 games and racked up 1,071 assists, 263 digs, 37 blocks and 22 service aces. Kurasaki will have some help this year from freshman setter Shannon Engle.

Engle comes to SJU from Presentation High School in San Jose, Calif., and will assist Kurasaki in the setting duties.

The Red Storm will expect Dang and senior Sarah McCrary to step up and take the place of Kristy Mercein at the outside hitter position.

In two seasons playing for the Red Storm, Dang has proven to be a consistent force for St. John’s.

In 2001, Dang was among the top three in six offensive categories for the Red Storm.

She was the team’s leader in hitting percentage while totaling 252 kills, 198 digs, 52 total blocks, 40 service aces and 75 assists. 2001 was McCrary’s first season with the Red Storm and she played a pivotal role in the team’s success. The senior led the team in kills with 297.

Junior Alysse Bak earned valuable playing time last season, providing a spark off the bench in 39 games for St. John’s.

Allison Heckl played in 10 games last season, recording seven kills, 14 digs, four assists and three blocks.

Ellen Gutor saw playing time in 23 games a season ago, tallying one kill and 13 digs. Gutor looks to improve on her defensive skills and gain more time in the rotation.

Three newcomers should see significant time in the rotation.

Ruban should see significant playing time as she steps into the starting rotation. Due to her height and powerful hitting style, Ruban could see time at both the outside and middle hitter positions.

Samas will play outside hitter for the Red Storm and start when the season begins. Samas is a local product coming to St. John’s after a wonderful career at Cardozo High School in Queens.

Natalie Hyppolite hails from Palm Bay, Fla. and rounds out the trio of newcomers at the outside hitter position.

Creedon is the Red Storm’s only returning middle hitter. In her senior season, Creedon will be looked upon to lead the way in the middle for the defense.

In her first two seasons, Creedon was a reserve, but last season she played in 75 games for the Red Storm. In a breakout season, she totaled 107 kills, 38 blocks, 38 digs and six service aces, and looks to repeat that type of performance in 2002.

Ahlers is a local product from North Rockland H.S. in Stony Point, N.Y.

“Jackie will step into the starting line- up right away and be a consistent force,” Persico-Smith said. “We are looking for her to really solidify our front row and help us in blocking and hitting.”

This year’s schedule is the toughest in school history. The Red Storm will begin their season at the North Carolina Tournament in Chapel Hill, N.C., where they will compete against Wisconsin, North Carolina, and New Mexico State. A week later they will host the SJU Classic. In mid-September, St. John’s will take part in the Penn Tournament against Fordham, Manhattan, Elon and Penn.

“I made the schedule tougher because I thought maybe that would help us do better in our own conference.” Persico-Smith said. “It is good experience for them to play better teams.”

Dang feels the same way. “As an athlete, you always want to play teams that are better than you and that you can compete with.”

St. John’s will begin its Big East schedule with a weekend visit to Syracuse and Notre Dame. They will begin their home Big East schedule when Pittsburgh, West Virginia and Connecticut come to Alumni Hall in early October. Their last eight games of the season will be against Big East opponents.

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