A sweet return home

The wait is finally over.

The St. John’s volleyball team was back on the court where they didn’t lose last year, the court where they hosted the first round of the 2007 NCAA Tournament, the court where they called home – Carnesecca Arena.

Joanne Persico-Smith’s squad would not disappoint fans for the first match on the newly renovated Carnesecca Arena.

Behind the double-doubles of sophomore Kun Song and Kovaleva, the Red Storm outlasted the Connecticut Huskies in a thrilling 3-2 victory (25-13, 17-25, 25-23, 23-25, 15-3).
With the win, St. John’s improves to 14-7 (5-1 Big East) while Connecticut fell to 14-7 (3-3 Big East).

Song had 15 kills and 14 digs for the Red Storm, while Kovaleva recorded 11 kills, a team-high 15 digs, four assists and three service aces.

Besides Song and Kovaleva, the Red Storm got great contributions from seniors Chen Chen, Wioleta Lesczysnka, Casie Brooks and Lena Yee.

Chen recorded 17 kills, along with a phenomenal hitting percentage of .571 while Leszczysnka, who was named to this week’s Big East volleyball weekly honor roll, registered a match-high 55 assists and added seven digs, two blocks and one kill.

Brooks picked up 12 kills in the match and also had seven digs to go along with a hitting percentage of .310. Yee chipped in with 12 digs.

In the first set, it was Song that led the Red Storm to a 25-13 victory with five kills, as the Red Storm went on to record a .480 hitting percentage. The Red Storm started the set off on a 10-5 run and used that energy to take the first set.

UConn would respond in the second set, as they went on to open the set on a 11-5 run. The Red Storm would get as close as five points, but weren’t able to capitalize as the Huskies tied up the match at one set apiece.

The highlight of the match was the third and fouth sets as both were 25-23 decisions, with St. John’s winning the third set and UConn winning the fouth set.

In the third set, there were nine tie scores, and when it seemed that UConn was about to squeak out the win with all of the momentum going their way – freshman Darlene Ramdin made one of the plays of the game with a kill then Kovaleva and Leszczynska had a combined block to put the game away.

When it seemed as everything was going the way of the defending Big East champions, the Huskies would come roaring back in the fouth set to play the Red Storm in a very tight match. It would come down to the last play of the set as UConn’s Jordan Kirk had a kill to help them force a fifth set.
Going into the fifth set, the energy was high as fans thought it would go down to the wire.

The Red Storm came into the set and made a statement to the rest of Division I volleyball that they are still a team to watch out for come time for the NCAA Tournament.

They opened up the ffth set on a 9-1 run, highlighted by the dominant play of Kovaleva, who was involved in all of the Red Storm’s points.

After the powerful run, there were no hopes of a UConn comeback as Casie Brooks had three kills in the final five points of the match.

St. John’s, who is currently tied for seconnd in the Big East with Syracuse, will travel to Morgantown, W.Va. to square off against a struggling West Virginia.