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

A Hawaiian Punch Worth Trying

Not since John Stockton to Karl Malone or Joe Montana to Jerry Rice has there been a more lethal combination than Robyn Kurasaki to Rosalyn Dang.

‘Who?’ you’re probably asking yourself.

That’s the frustrating part, considering that the St. John’s volleyball team is on fire, starting the season at 19-5, 1-1.

St. John’s students are missing out on one of the greatest shows at Alumni Hall.

On Sunday, they defeated Syracuse for their first conference win and are making a name for themselves in the Big East.

For the past three and a half seasons, Kurasaki, the setter from Milliani, Hawaii, has been dishing out assist after assist, while Dang, a Honolulu native, has been killing them from the right side where she resides as an outside hitter.

Since 2000, the Hawaiian natives and standout seniors have been serving up an irresistible punch, as they have been the leading catalysts behind the Red Storm volleyball squad.

“They’ve been tremendous to our program,” Head Coach Joanne-Persico Smith said, who, in 1994, resurrected volleyball from a club sport to the varsity level, competing in the Big East. “They came in at a time when the program wasn’t well known, and they helped establish our program, so I’m forever grateful for that.”

Before their glory days at SJU, Kurasaki and Dang shined at their respective high schools in the Aloha state. Dang led her team at Punahou High School to the state championship her sophomore season, while Kurasaki was named Female Athlete of the Year her senior season at Maryknoll High School.

The two played on the same club team in Hawaii and that definitely makes the transition from high school to college even easier.

“It was definitely something that was comforting knowing that we’re coming all this way to have someone you know,” Dang said.

On the courts, the one-two Hawaiian punch has been a two-woman wrecking machine.

“We play well together,” Kurasaki said. “We know what each other [will] do.”

When asked if they had good chemistry on the court, Dang said, “On the right side, yeah,” as they both chuckled.

In her freshman season, Kurasaki developed into one of the premier setters in the Big East.

Leading the Johnnies to three tournament titles, it wasn’t hard to understand why Kurasaki was named Big East Rookie of the Week four times and Northeast Region Freshman of the Year.

Her numbers were good enough for 2000 Big East Rookie of the Year.

Like her partner in crime, Dang too made an immediate impact in her first year at SJU. At the very first tournament at Central Connecticut, she was named Most Valuable Player, leading the Red Storm to the tournament championship.

Since their stellar first-year at St. John’s, the dynamic duo has not let up, putting up big numbers the next two years, while mentoring and taking younger teammates under their wing.

“They’ve been here for four years, started for four years-and they treat us like we’re equal, even if we’re not skill wise,”said Jackie Ahlers, a sophomore hitter.

Kurasaki, who Persico-Smith refers to as her “little pineapple,” because of her 5-foot-4 and a half stature, played in all 99 games in 2001 finishing the season with 1,071 assists.

Dang was second on the team in kills (252), assists (75) and service aces (40).

Kurasaki became the first player in SJU history to record three consecutive 1,000 assist seasons.

At last weekend’s Penn Tournament, she became the all-time assist leader, surpassing alum Connie Chae’s school record.

“That’s a phenomenal record because if you had ever saw Connie set, Connie was a hell of a setter,” Persico-Smith said. “Robyn is better. Robyn is all-around better.”

Knowing that they have been playing their hearts out and leaving it all on the court, one would think they would be upset for the lack of fan appreciation and low attendance at home games.

Think again. “It’s nice to get volleyball out to the community, but we play for ourselves,” Dang said with a passion in her tone. “We play because we love it.”

“They’re not there when we’re sweating, when we’re at Jones Beach running,” added Kurasaki. “It’s for ourselves, but we like people to enjoy what we enjoy.”

“I love Robyn and Rosalyn,” Persico-Smith said, whose smile is so big upon hearing their names, you could see it from Union Turnpike, “We have a great relationship.”

“Coach is like my mom away from home,” Dang said. “It’s hard when you have 16 girls, but she manages to take care of each of us like we’re the only ones there.”

Big East Academic All-Stars, Kurasaki is in a program to complete her doctorate while Dang is interested in advertising and will work as an intern in the city this year.

“If you get to know them off the court, they’re even better,” Persico-Smith said. “They’re very bright.”

They have high expectations for this season, and are not ready to speak about their SJU careers just yet.

“It’s kind of hard to talk about our careers because they’re not over yet,” Kurasaki said, who along with Dang still have 11 more contests this season, four being held at Alumni Hall. “We want to go all the way.”

“They’re up there,” Persico-Smith said, in regard to them being the best players in the program’s history.

Qualifying for the Big East tourney, a feat the team has not done since 1996, would be the perfect ending to a marvelous career for Kurasaki and Dang, who are both very grateful to the trainers, maintenance, support staff and the entire athletic community for their help.

SJU plays its next home game on Friday, Oct. 24 against Virginia Tech at 7:30 p.m.

Hopefully people will start recognizing them and Red Storm volleyball before it’s too late.

 

 

 

 

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