St. John’s gets fifth seed, plays Cincinnati in first round

The St. John’s volleyball team may have been labeled the underdogs at the beginning of the season but they have shattered those expectations in efforts to pursue Big East glory.

Its meteoric rise in the standings can be attributed to its defense and their ability to transform pressure into points.

They play fourth-seeded Cincinnati in the first round of the Big East on Friday.

“We have a good defense and balance,” St. John’s coach Joanne Persico-Smith said. “Their greatest strengths are the way they play under pressure, the way they’ve implemented the game plan and the way they have been very resilient. They don’t let mistakes snowball.”

Persico-Smith says that their defense has cleaned up because of the team’s ability to “gel” well and get along with one another combined with the leaderships qualities of the older players.

“Our emotional leader is Shameka Mitchell, who seems to bring that killer instinct, which I think is important in the Big East,” Persico-Smith said. “It’s the extra emotional adrenaline and fight that can get us over the top.”

The St. John’s volleyball team has not made the Big East Tournament since 1996.

With the addition of new teams, competition has increased and St. John’s has been disappointed with losses, making it to three Big East qualifying tie-breakers in the last nine years and losing all three.

“Now we’re in it we don’t want to just be happy with being in,” Persico-Smith said. “We want to knock off some teams. Our goal is to win. Our best game can happen in the Big East Tournament.”.

Player such as middle blocker Mitchell and newly recruited Chinese import Hui Ping Huang, who was named Big East rookie of the week, will frontline their attack.

However their consistent digging and passing is what allows their offense to explode.

“For the Big East Tournament, I think it’ll be good because we’re playing a team that we’ve lost to,” the graduate student said, “so we have that built up aggression to take out on the ball, the blocks, etc.”

Ultimately the Storm must simply learn from their past mistakes and correct them to go far in the tournament.

“All the teams that we lost to we felt that we could’ve done a better job against, so it’s time for us to make our point,” Mitchell said. “There’s no shoulda, coulda, woulda. Now we actually have the chance to beat teams that we haven’t beat.”

Notes

St. John’s outside hitter Hui Ping Huang received her second conference honor Monday when the Big East named her the conference’s rookie of the week. The honor comes on the heels of two victories for the Red Storm.