The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

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Looking back: A volleyball season to remember

Looking for a good investment? The St. John’s volleyball team is quickly becoming a hot commodity.

Thanks to a season that featured a 33-4 record, a Big East Tournament Championship and a Sweet 16 appearance, demand has never been higher.

“Each year we set long term and short term goals for the individual player, coaches, and overall team,” head coach Joanne Persico-Smith said. “Each year the team has been setting higher and higher goals that seem reachable to us.”

So rather than consider this a season overview, one might be able to consider this a letter to the shareholders, the fans, of the St. John’s volleyball team.

Safe at Home

It would have been difficult to have a better regular season than the Johnnies enjoyed in 2007. Led by a strong core that featured seniors Hui Ping Huang, LaToya Blunt and Wioleta Leszczynska, as well as junior Lena Yee, the team went 28-3 in the regular season, including 13-1 against the Big East.

The Johnnies also enjoyed another perfect season at Carnesecca Arena, its second straight.

Big East Tournament Champs

The momentum from the regular season carried over into the Big East Tournament as the Johnnies quickly dispatched Connecticut and USF. Heading into the title game, a rematch loomed between Louisville and St. John’s after the Cardinals handed the Johnnies one of its three regular season losses.

“We had a lot of pressure and expectations on us this season after being regular season champions last year,” junior Casie Brooks said. “I thought it was great how we not only accomplished that again, but we also won the Big East Tournament.”

The title victory was made even sweeter as it came under the bright lights of television.

“It was a tremendous feeling to win it on national television this year,” Persico-Smith said. “It was an electrifying feeling and huge boost for the team and program.”

A Sweet Run

The success of the team allowed St. John’s to be honored with hosting the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament at Carnesecca Arena for the first time in program history.

Thehe 12th seeded Johnnies’ home dominance carried over to the postseason, as it defeated Long Island University and Delaware.

“What made that weekend most memorable to me was that we did it in front of many of our long-time friends and supporters,” Persico-Smith said, “as well as many of the people that were responsible for implementing the sport of volleyball here at St. John’s 14 years ago.”

But the ride finally ended in Gainesville, Fla. against powerhouse USC as the Johnnies fell in a hard-fought five-game match.

“We felt that we gave it everything we had,” Persico-Smith said. “That enabled us not to have any regrets or dwell on our loss, but instead look at the season as a whole.”

The Future

If the Red Storm makes another run at a NCAA title, it will be without players such as Blunt, Huang and Leszczynska. The seniors have played their final games for St. John’s and leave holes that will need to be filled.

“It will be hard to fill the shoes of what our seniors have this season but I know I am ready to take on that role and help lead our team next season,” Brooks said. “Our seniors were great leaders and I hope to help the team next season the same way they helped us.”

There should also be some new faces around next year, as recruitment season is under way and Persico-Smith is busy trying to find her next group of stars.

“Recruit, recruit, recruit,” Persico-Smith said.

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