Although it got a little rough at times, St. John’s volleyball team continued its dominance over Big East opponents Sunday afternoon.
The No. 18 Red Storm, owners of a 10 match winning streak, defeated West Virginia by scores of 30-27, 30-16 and 30-26, pushing its overall record to 19-2 and 4-0 versus the Big East.
It was hardly an easy sweep as the Mountaineers came out strong in the first game by taking a 15-12 lead. With a St. John’s timeout and strong play by LaToya Blunt, the Johnnies turned things around. A quick kill by Blunt coming out of the timeout pulled the Red Storm within two of the Mountaineers. Blunt’s kill was one of her match-high 15.
“LaToya is perhaps the most improved player on the team since her freshman year,” coach Joanne Persico-Smith said. “She is capable of playing many positions and has really come up big on many important points throughout our win streak.”
The two teams would continue to go back and fourth before the Johnnies finally took a 27-26 lead off a kill by Hui Ping Huang. An ace by Huang put the finishing touches on a 30-27 game one victory.
Things remained close in game two early on as St. John’s took a slim 6-5 lead before junior Casie Brooks went to serve. Brooks had two aces as St. John’s took a commanding 13-5 lead. On her next service turn, Brooks helped build the lead to 26-14 in what turned out to be a 30-16 victory.
“Casie is the consummate athlete,” said coach Persico-Smith. “She is versatile and willing to do whatever we need her to do to help the team.”
She added, “At about 5-8, she is usually the smallest player out on the court on both sides of the net, but she works extra hard to make up the difference in height with heart and by using her head.”
Despite being down 2-0 and watching the Red Storm run out to an 11-4 lead to open Game three, the Mountaineers were not about to let St. John’s off easy. Fighting nearly all the way back, the Mountaineers pulled within 29-25.
A quick Johnnie timeout did not seem to help at first, as West Virginia notched another point to make the score 29-26. West Virginia’s bid for a comeback win was dashed when senior Elizabeth Austin finished off the Mountaineers with her fifth kill of the game.