Longevity is something many college coaches hope to accomplish at their respective universities. But, Joanne Persico-Smith can say she has it with 15 years at the helm of St. John’s University’s women’s volleyball program, and she can also say she’s done it with success and an impressive 300 wins in the process. With a 3-0 victory over LIU this past weekend, the head coach earned win 300 and walked away alongside her team the Courtyard LaGuardia tournament champions.
“I feel honored and blessed to be a coach at St. John’s University,” Persico-Smith said. “From the very first day I was hired I have felt supported by the entire university administration.”
Persico-Smith has been at the helm of the program since its birth in 1994. In her very first season as coach of the Red Storm the team finished a dismal 10-25. During the next two seasons Persico-Smith, more than doubled the number of victories from her first year. In her earlier years at the University, the team did not receive as much recognition as it now does, and its most notable accomplishments were minor player recognitions and Big East tournament appearances. But since 1998, Persico-Smith has only endured one losing season, a 15-16 in 2004.
Her time spent at St. John’s seems to have gone by so fast for the victorious volleyball coach but her familylike workplace has made it all even more special. “The wins are great but even when we were not winning championships I always felt support throughout the entire University,” Persico-Smith said. “The people at St. John’s care about one another and it transcends wins and losses.”
Persico-Smith who is a 1987 Syracuse grad has earned her share of accomplishments as a player as well. During her senior year, she was her teams most valuable player, captain and was awarded the Big East Player of the Year. The following year she was inducted into Syracuse’s Orange Plus Hall of Fame. In 2006, Persico-Smith the coach earned herself Big East Coach of the Year honors, as well as leading the program to its first Big East conference championship.
Since 2006, the programs prestige has risen and has become an annual contender in the conference. Last year’s team boasted a program-best 33-4 record, and finished 13th in the final CSTV/AVCA Top 25 Coaches Poll. Persico-Smith also coached the Big East’s player of the year in Hui Ping Huang.
“The last three years have been the most fun of all because there is no greater feeling in sports than winning championships,” Persico-Smith said.
This years team has had the tough task of living up to the expectations of the 2007 season. They are competing with the absences of two All-Big East Players and a Big East Player of the Year in Huang.
“This years team has some great new talent,” Persico-Smith said, “and is working hard to achieve its pre-season goals of winning a fourth championship in three years and making it to the NCAA tournament.”
Persico-Smith and the Red Storm sit at a 9-6 record and are on a four-game win streak heading into conference play. Perisco-Smith won her 301st game last night against Stony Brook.
Persico-Smith says the program’s expectation’s are very high but wouldn’t see it any other way. In 15 seasons she has managed to steer this program in the right direction and gain the respect of many.
But three hundred wins and a bunch of accolades aren’t enough to define a great career. “It has been perseverance and passion”, Persico-Smith said, “that has allowed me to stay in coaching for that many years in today’s sports climate.”