The winter has been bitter cold for the injury-ravaged St. John’s women’s basketball team, which has so far been unable to build upon their promising success last season. But they have weathered a tough start. The spark came in the form of a 76-69 upset at No. 23 Pittsburgh on Jan. 13, which brings the Red Storm’s record to 5-10, with 12 games remaining in 2007 and plenty of promise in their coming endeavors.
The team, short on depth and playing with only nine players at its deepest, opened the season with only a single healthy reserve on the bench. The team has done a remarkable job sharing the burden every night, with veterans Kia Wright, Monique McLean and Tiina Sten leading the Storm’s efforts-at least one of them scoring double digits in every game through December and January.
For senior Wright, who returned from a month-long injury hiatus in the 85-74 victory over Stony Brook on Dec. 30, there was no delay in returning to top form as her first four games back brought the kind of explosive offensive performance the team needed. They split her first four games against tough opponents: The wins over Stony Brook and Pittsburgh sandwiched around tough home losses to Rutgers and Georgetown, 67-53 and 53-45, respectively. But there is no quit in the speedy senior, who has played with the kind of patient tenacity the team desperately missed in her six-game absence. She has dished the ball for a team-leading 58 assists despite only playing in nine games this season, and will be the boon the team needs in the pivotal second half.
McLean, a sophomore guard, has offered consistent performances all year, but her performance against Stony Brook is particularly of note as she went off for 32 points, dominating the opponent in every facet of the game. It is not the first time she has been able to grab the reins and steer the team to decisive victory either. A 26-point showing en route to a win over Monmouth earlier this year was another highlight. Leading the team in points and steals, she has made her presence known all season, currently ranking seventh in scoring in the Big East.
The hard-working Sten has anchored the team throughout the season. As the sole Johnnie to start every game, she has been pulling the team through its most difficult stretches. Before the win over Stony Brook, the team was on a three-game slide, losing to Nichols State 63-50, Boston University 64-83, and No. 2 North Carolina 43-87. But the stalwart forward eclipsed her already powerful 6’3” frame and has played with unmitigated passion in her third season. She has elevated the team’s performance, rallying it with a hard-fought basket in the paint, a clutch rebound, or dropping the guillotine on defense-she leads the team with 17 swats.
Box score contributions have come from every player that has been healthy enough to put on the jersey: Sophomore rebounding monster Angel Tate (a team-leading 119 boards) and freshman sniper Joy McCorvey (team high .463 shooting percentage) have added important baskets all season, and freshmen Nikki Jo Rotolo, Charisse Curtis, Recee Mitchel, and Allie Patterson have shown progress and promise for the future, developing chemistry on the big stage.
Despite the hardship and growing pains the team has endured, coach Kim Barnes Arico has kept her team playing spirited ball together, and as the young team melds, intangible bonds are being formed that set the team up for a return to glory. The coming Big East match-ups may prove the team’s true character, as they prepare for a chance to be tempered by this flame they have sparked.