Youth no excuse for volleyball’s weekend hangover

It looks as if the volleyball team has hit a bump in the road.
We’ve heard about this team’s youth and inexperience. We know about the freshmen and sophomores thrown onto the court, hoping to replace former stars. We know that sophomore Darlene Ramdin had to be flown in from the World Championships in Mexico to play savior to a depleted Red Storm team that stumbled through its first few matches.

After suffering two three-game losing streaks, and going just 3-2 in their last five games, the Red Storm had an opportunity to show just how good it could be with a comeback victory over DePaul on Friday. The win showed that not only could the Johnnies stay on their feet, but they could land a few jabs of their own.

Sunday, the Storm was once again tested. This time, the Big East threw a haymaker.

Two days after that comeback win, the Red Storm fell to Notre Dame – a team St. John’s was 14-2 against lifetime entering the day.

Not only did the team lose, it lost in consecutive sets.

And though Ramdin led the team in kills, and even though the
reoccurring names – Asing, Petkova, Song – once again made their marks in the box score, the Red Storm missed out on a chance to set a tone for the rest of conference play that the preseason ups and downs were a fluke, and that the Red Storm would once again be a force in
the Big East.

As I heard the news Sunday night, the words of my high school
baseball coach rang loudly in my head.

“Boys,” he told us early in the 2008 season, his finger pointed, his mustache twitching, “You’re young, and you’re not used to winning yet.”

He was right. With only three seniors in the starting lineup, we were young and inexperienced and we believed it. As a result, we struggled early and lost the first two league series of the year. Following a wake-up call so loud it was heard three towns over, we climbed the standings, finishing third in our conference. What helped us two years ago was an undeniable swagger we carried that said we were the better team every day we stepped onto the field.

It’s in the same breath that the volleyball team needs to shake off this loss and play like the teams of old – experience or no experience. Seniority or no seniority.

I think somewhere along the line, the Red Storm volleyball players heard they’re not used to winning yet, too. But if there’s anything these young players should have learned this weekend, it’s that yes, the Big East conference knows you are young and inexperienced. And no, it doesn’t care.

It is so rare to win right away, especially when there are expectations involved. Aaron Rodgers couldn’t do it
succeeding Brett Favre in Green Bay in 2008. The Chicago Bulls couldn’t win for years after Michael Jordan retired. And on the heels of three straight regular-season Big East titles, the volleyball team must learn how to win and live up to the Red Storm nickname on its jerseys.

The Big East’s volleyball coaches have long since circled St. John’s on their calendars. The Red Storm won’t sneak up on anyone the rest of the way. They haven’t thus far, either.

Sunday, against a thoroughly more experienced Notre Dame team -the Irish boast nine upperclassmen players – the Red Storm learned that. They learned that any future hangover from big wins must be wiped clear from their minds.

Those hangovers better not become too frequent, either. The team is now 8-10 and 1-1 in conference play, and the road only gets tougher from here. Now’s the time the meek get pinched. Now’s the time the bold survive.

Then again, they’re young. They’ve got plenty of time to figure all this out.