Knights knock off Storm

Sunday’s game against Rutgers was supposed to be a relatively easy win.

On the surface, there was no real threat from a team that was below .500 and was mired in a four game losing streak.

A win would have provided the perfect playoff push for a St. John’s team desperately searching for Big East victories. It was precisely these factors that made Sunday’s outcome so surprising.

“Statistics don’t always match up in volleyball,” said Shameka Mitchell.

Her words were very fitting as Rutgers defeated St. John’s, 3-2, at the College Avenue Gymnasium in Piscataway, N.J.

The match marked the Red Storm’s third loss of the season in the deciding fifth game (Binghamton, Syracuse, and Rutgers). The loss dropped the Red Storm to 21-8, 7-5 in the conference, while Rutgers improved to 10-15, and 5-7 in the conference.

“We just suffered a let down against Rutgers,” St. John’s coach Joanne Persico-Smith said. “We just needed to focus more as a team. We didn’t do that and that’s why we lost.”

The loss proved to be very important to a team that is fighting for its playoff life.

St. John’s is currently in sixth place in the Big East conference and is tied with Marquette and Villanova.

The women’s volleyball team, which is in the middle of a 15-team fight for eight spots in the Big East Tournament, could conceivably miss out on the playoffs.

“I don’t think that we will miss out on the Big East Tournament,” Mitchell said. “But even if we do miss it, I feel that this team would not have been a total disappointment. We feel that we have met, and far exceeded all fan expectations for this team. So while we would be disappointed by not making the postseason, we wouldn’t be a total let down.”

Sunday’s loss to Rutgers was all the more disenchanting because of Friday’s performance against Villanova, who is arguably a better team than Rutgers. The Red Storm swept the Wildcats, 3-0 (30-27, 30-15, 30-20).

The team’s final two matches are a bit of good news, bad news. The good news is that both come against Big East rivals, and therefore, give the team a chance to advance its case for a playoff spot.

The bad news is that the matches are against West Virginia (16-11, 4-8), and Pittsburgh (16-9, 9-3).

Although the competition seems daunting, Persico-Smith is confident in her team, one that has not gained a berth into the Big East Tournament since 1996.

“We pretty much can control our own destiny,” she said. “If we get back to playing Red Storm volleyball, then we should win. This year’s team has a good chemistry, and has been one of my most favorite teams to coach.”

The final two matches will prove to be an indicator of just how far St. John’s has come from last year’s 15-16 record, and will also serve as a litmus test against potential playoff opponents.