About halfway through the third game of Sunday’s volleyball match against the Cincinnati Bearcats, senior Patti Hardimon dove for a ball and came up short yet she was still all smiles while leading a Red Storm sweep.
Hardimon spent almost the entire match on the floor diving for the ball, despite her tender ankle, which was on ice after the game. “It’s not a foot injury, this is just rest,” Hardimon said. “It hurts a little out on the court.”
It certainly did not hurt her game as she collected 22 digs to lead the team, and 14 kills, good for second on the team. She trailed only sophomore Hui Ping Huang, who finished with a match-high 16 kills. Huang was also second on the team in digs with 19.
After a 39-37 grind in the first game, St. John’s felt they gained the emotional and psychological edge over Cincinnati. “They didn’t expect us to play like that,” junior Wioleta Leszczynska said. “[The first] was the most important game.”
Leszczynska played a key role in the first game, finishing with a service ace that sealed the game, and made it a “mental thing” that the Red Storm players could see on the Bearcats’ faces.
The Red Storm fell behind early, trailing by as many as four before reaching 10 points in the first game. Once St. John’s tied the match at 14, neither team pulled ahead by more than two until the Red Storm surged to a 27-22 lead, and looked as though they would take the first game.
However, the Bearcats showed resiliency in a 6-1 run, tying the score at 28. The match went back and forth after that, until, with the score tied 37-37, Lindsey Peterson of the Bearcats committed an attack error, giving St. John’s a one point advantage. Leszczynska capitalized on this opportunity with her service ace, ending the grueling first game.
In the second game, the Red Storm jumped out to an 8-3 lead, forcing Cincinnati to use a timeout, and the Bearcats recovered with a 7-4 run, making the score 12-10. Cincinnati would not come that close again however, losing the game 30-18.
In the final game, St. John’s exploded for an early 12-4 lead, seemingly putting the match completely out of sight. However, Cincinnati made their push and they came within four, 18-14.
The Red Storm proceeded to score four straight points and never looked back, finishing off the Bearcats 30-20.
“We better at least get some votes,” Hardimon said concerning the fact that they have yet to receive any votes for the top 25 poll, despite moving to 19-1 on the season, and completing their 14th sweep this season.
Coach Joanne Persico-Smith thinks her team has a “killer instinct,” and thinks this team has the potential to be her best in 13 years of coaching St. John’s volleyball.