Women ranked for first time in 22 years

Kim Barnes Arico gathered her team in a circle after practice as she always has. But Monday at Taffner Field House there was something extra for the coach to add to her usual talks.

“Towards the end of her speech she said, ‘By the way ,you’re the No. 25 team in the country,” junior guard Kia Wright said. “We all clapped. We let out a big cheer. A few teammates, we [did] a little bump.”

The national ranking in the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls is the first for the women’s basketball since Feb. 5, 1984.

“The phones have been ringing off the hook,” Barnes Arico said. “The E-mails have been pouring in.”

St. John’s (17-3, 7-2) record is good for third place in the conference behind No. 4 Connecticut and No. 9 Rutgers. It is the team’s best start since the 1983-84 season. Its wins include one over then No. 12 Notre Dame, four consecutive Big East victories and two straight at Madison Square Garden.

“I want the kids to enjoy the moment,” Barnes Arico said. “I don’t want it to be for too long because then we forget about the process and forget about how we got here.”

When Barnes Arico took over in 2003 the team was coming off a season in which it did not win a conference game. In her first year, it won just eight contests overall. Over the next two years St. John’s improved in wins and in making postseason tournaments. Last season’s squad won 20 games and lost in the second round of the WNIT to West Virginia.

Even considering all the progress the team has made coming into this season they did not make cracking the Top 25 a goal for the season, said Wright.

Instead they focused goals like making the Big East and NCAA Tournament’s and out-rebounding opponents.

“We got to keep going,” Wright said. “This ranking it can easily be taken away from us. It’s a struggle because teams are after us. No. 25 in the country aint going to be nothing if we don’t finish the season off strong.”