In a rematch of last year’s Big East Championship game, the St. John’s University women’s volleyball team (11-6, 2-0 Big East) handed Louisville its first conference loss of the season on Sunday afternoon at Taffner Field House.
The match featured two of the conference’s most promising teams, and the conference’s most promising player in Valeria Kovaleva.
Kovaleva recorded a career-high 20 kills en route to defeating the Cardinals in five sets.
The Red Storm took a demanding two-set lead heading into the half (25-27, 25-17) and seemed to be on their way to their sixth three-set sweep in a row.
But the Cardinals would not go down easily.
They battled the Storm in the third set and eventually pulled away to win the set 25-21.
Louisville coach Leonid Yelin struggled to strategically find the best matchups on the court. Yelin brought in his talented senior Rui Liu during the third set, despite an ankle injury.
The Storm committed ten errors in the third.
In the fourth set, Louisville continued their momentum and, at one point, went on an 11-4 streak. The Johnnies trailed the whole set and lost 25-23.
Despite five kills from Kovaleva, the Storm would have to settle the match in a sudden death fifth set.
Two key kills apiece from freshman Darlene Ramdin, and Casie Brooks helped the Storm defeat the Cardinals in the fifth set, 15-7.
Louisville’s Lecia Brown finished with 13 kills and eight blocks.
But the Cardinals were outdone by the combined efforts of St. John’s seniors Kovaleva, Brooks and Wioleta Leszcynska. Brooks finished with ten digs and 14 kills, only to be outdone by Kovaleva who finished with a double-double as well, 20 kills and 14 digs.
Coach Joanne Persico-Smith said there was a great team effort put forth to defeat the Cardinals. “I was concerned about the revenge factor,” she said. “But our goal is to win this conference, and continue to get better.”
The Storm have won six straight since their loss to Hofstra in mid-September. Conference play continues this Friday when the Storm look to improve their conference against Marquette.
Coming into Friday night’s Big East opener against Cincinnati, nobody knew what to expect from the St. John’s women’s volleyball team.
Sure, they are the reigning Big East volleyball champions, who finished last season with a 33-4 record – which included an undefeated record at home. However, they came into this season without the graduated trio of Hui Ping Huang, LaToya Blunt and Dana DeMayo.
After a shaky 9-6 start to the season, which included losses to powerhouses, California and Missouri and local rival Hofstra, the team proved they could still do it in conference by sweeping Cincinnati (25-22, 25-15, 25-21) at Taffner Field House.
Seniors Valeria Kovaleva and Casie Brooks led the offense for the Red Storm and both finished with double-doubles. Kovaleva finished the game with 11 kills and 14 digs while Brooks picked up 11 kills and 11 digs.
Senior Wioleta Leszczynska had a match-high 40 assists, while sophomore Kun Song led all attackers with 14 kills.
The defense was anchored by Kovaleva and classmate Chen Chen. Kovaleva, made many great diving passes in the third set, thwarting any chance of a Cincinnati comeback.
While Kovaleva was diving to stop the Bearcats, it was Chen’s blocking that gave the Red Storm that extra lift they needed.