The UConn Huskies tried to keep pace with the St. John’s volleyball team, but their best was not enough, as they became just another Big East victim to the Red Storm.Led by their trio of stars, Hui Ping Huang, Wioleta Leszczynska and Lena Yee, the No. 22 Red Storm (22-3, 7-1) swept the Huskies (12-9, 3-5) by scores of 30-23, 30-28 and 30-20 Friday night at the Harry A. Gampel Pavilion.
Huang was at the forefront of the Johnnies’ attack with a match-high 18 kills. Fellow senior Leszczynska added a match-high 43 assists and junior Lena Yee continued her string of excellent defensive performances. The defensive star had a match-high 15 digs.
The usual suspects were supported by junior Valeria Kovaleva, who had one of her finest performances of the season. The Moscow native registered 12 digs, nine kills, five total blocks and three service aces.
“She was serving great and her passing really enabled us to get our offense going throughout the match,” head coach Joanne Persico-Smith said. “She did a great job for us.”
Early on, the team struggled to get its offensive attack together. After falling behind three points early, the Huskies continued to put the pressure on the Red Storm, building a 13-9 lead before a St. John’s timeout. The two teams continued to battle back and forth before a kill by senior LaToya Blunt extended a slim lead to 18-16. Following Blunt’s kill, the team began to hit its stride and held off the Huskies for the win on a Huang kill.
“LaToya’s slide hit really helped to create some momentum,” said Persico-Smith. “It got the team going in the right direction.”That momentum carried over to the beginning of game two as the Red Storm built a quick 8-3 lead. But the Huskies were not about to make things easy for their opponents, eventually coming all the way back to tie the game at 27-27. After trading points, the Johnnies averted a disheartening loss by scoring two straight points on a kill by Huang and a block by Blunt and Kovaleva. After witnessing the perseverance of the Huskies, the Johnnies went for the kill early in game three. Before the Huskies knew it, the scoreboard read 23-9 in favor of St. John’s. Despite an attempt at a comeback, the Huskies succumbed to a Red Storm sweep.
“UConn is a tough team to play at their place,” said Persico-Smith. “I was very happy that we got the result we wanted in three games.”