Sweet Home Alumni

There is no place like home.

This past weekend, the St. John’s volleyball team played their first games at Alumni Hall since hosting the St. John’s Classic in early September, as they took on Big East foes Pittsburgh and West Virginia.

During the 11-match, 22-day road trip, the Johnnies played well, finishing an impressive 8-3.

St. John’s Head Coach Joanne Persico-Smith was pleased with the way her team handled the long time away from home. “Our rookies gained valuable Big East conference experience and being on the road has brought our team closer together,” Persico-Smith said.

“I was very proud of our team. We had hard games and we came out strong,” added junior setter Robyn Kurasaki.

The Johnnies were defeated by Pittsburgh, 3-0, (30-22, 30-26, 30-23) in their Big East home opener last Friday night. The team struggled offensively, hitting .107 as a team, while Pittsburgh dominated on defense, recording a team total of 12 blocks.

“We were expecting a much better performance tonight,” Persico-Smith said after her team’s loss. “I didn’t think our serving was strong, and we need to improve on our defense,” both Persico-Smith and Kurasaki said.

St. John’s could not get an early lead all night.

“They did a great job of stopping our runs and really kept the pressure on us,” Persico-Smith added.

The Red Storm were led by Kurasaki, who recorded a double-double with 39 assists and 11 digs. “I don’t think there’s any excuses,” Kurasaki said of her team’s performance against Pittsburgh. “We just got have put it together. We’re Division I athletes, and there are expectations we have to meet.”

Jackie Ahlers and Yana Ruban recorded nine kills each, while Shannon Engle tallied 10 digs from the libero position.

On Sunday, Oct. 6, St. John’s bounced back from its loss against Pittsburgh with a 3-0 (30-23, 30-23, 30-28) win over West Virginia. “The girls did a great job of bouncing back after the loss,” Persico-Smith said. “We did a good job of learning from our mistakes.”

Leading the way for the Red Storm was the defense. St. John’s recorded 50 digs and 14 block assists, while holding the Mountaineers to a .089 hitting percentage.

“Our blocking was much better, and we were more enthusiastic on defense, which helped us beat them,” Persico-Smith said of her team’s performance on defense.

Sarah McCrary and Ahlers led the Red Storm to victory by each posting a double-double. Ahlers tallied 16 kills and 11 digs, while McCrary accounted for 13 kills and 13 digs. Engle continued to impress at the libero position, recording 10 digs.

“Shannon has done a great job of stepping into the libero position,” Persico-Smith said of the freshman’s performance. “She is learning to be more aggressive.”

The Johnnies return to action this week when they host Columbia and Connecticut. “Columbia is a tough team, and Connecticut is always competitive,” Persico-Smith said. “We’re hoping a lot of people come out and see the girls play at Alumni Hall.”

This Friday night against Connecticut, the team will be throwing out free T-shirts to the crowd.