Before the St. John’s volleyball team even stepped onto the floor in its Nov. 18 meeting with Cincinnati, coach Joanne Persico-Smith knew that it was going to be a hard-fought match.
“We prepared for them (Cincinnati) all week,” Persico-Smith said. “We lost to them earlier in the year so we knew that they were going to be tough competition. I didn’t think that we had good rhythm in the game, and I don’t think that was because that we were off, but sometimes a good team can throw you out of rhythm.”
St. John’s lost to Cincinnati 3-1 (30-22, 30-22, 28-30, 31-29) in Louisville, Ky. in the first round of the Big East tournament.
The berth marked the first time since 1996 that St. John’s (23-9, 9-6) reached the tournament.
“Losing never feels good,” Persico-Smith said. “But when I look at the body of work that we have accomplished over the year, I am very proud of my women, the fans, and everyone who was involved with us.”
Although the team’s season ended with the loss to the Bearcats, there was still the opportunity for an NCAA tournament selection.
St. John’s was excluded from the tournament however, as only No. 6 Notre Dame and No. 9 Louisville were selected from the Big East.
“I don’t feel that we were slighted at all,” Persico-Smith said. “If we had beaten Cincinnati, then I think we would have had a better case, but we had a good season.”
The coach’s words prove to be very true when looking at the season-ending stats and comparing them with last year’s.
At the conclusion of this year, the team had an eight-game overall improvement and went from 1-9 in the Big East to 9-5.
It had two players, Hui Ping Huang and Shameka Mitchell, who were selected to the first and second All-Big East teams, respectively.
The team jumped from being chosen 14th in the conference by Big East coaches in the annual preseason poll, to a final position of fifth.
All that came with a school-record: 20 three-game sweeps.
“Overall I am very proud of the team,” Persico-Smith said. “They played better as a team than they did as individuals.”