Well worth the wait

The St. John’s women’s basketball team could not wait any longer to hear their name selected for the NCAA tournament.

After a four-year drought from
making the tournament, the No. 15 Red Storm knew they were locks for the field of 64. Yet, after waiting nearly 30 minutes in front of live ESPN cameras at the ESPN Zone in Manhattan on Monday, the team grew anxious and began to worry.

“We were anxious,” sophomore guard Da’Shena Stevens said. “Everybody on our team hasn’t made the tournament so everybody was anxious and wanted to get it over with.”
Once most of the tournament was announced, freshman Shenneika Smith even whispered in head coach Kim Barnes Arico’s ear and asked if it was possible they were snubbed.
“I don’t think that they would put us on ESPN if we weren’t getting selected,” Barnes Arico told her.

St. John’s name then popped up on the television. The Red Storm (24-6, 12-4 Big East) received the No. 6 seed in the Dayton region and will play No. 11 Princeton in the first round Saturday in Tallahassee, Fla.

ESPN then cut to a live shot of the
St. John’s players. Immediately they erupted: A cry of joy followed by a
synchronized team clap.

“My heart was beating so fast,” Smith said. “I never felt this way ever. When we finally came on TV, I just jumped.”

The six seed is the highest the Red Storm has ever earned and it is only the second time they have made the
women’s tournament in 22 years.

“We thought we were going to be a five (seed),” Barnes Arico said. “To be ranked 15th and 17th in the country [during the season], we thought we had a good chance of being a four or a five. That’s where we thought we would be.”

In the Dayton region though, she doesn’t mind. The No. 1 overall seed of the tournament, Connecticut, a team in the midst of a NCAA-record 72-game winning streak, is in their region. By avoiding the five seed, the Red Storm wouldn’t face the Huskies until the
Elite Eight.

“We are excited about being on the bottom half of the bracket,” Barnes
Arico said.

Princeton is no slouch, however. At 26-2, the Tigers only lost at UCLA and Rutgers, while finishing the season on a 21-game winning streak.

With a win, the Red Storm will face the winner of three-seeded Florida State and 14-seeded Louisiana Tech. If chalk prevails, it could end up being a
decorated away game for the Johnnies.

“I was hoping we would get on a neutral court but I know a lot of times they try to do that to get people in the stands and try to get a big following at the games,” said Barnes Arico.

Despite the fact that no player on the roster has any NCAA experience, and that the team starts two freshmen,
no one seems worried about a deer-in-the-headlights moment once play starts.

“It’s the first time for all of us to
be in the NCAAs but I think our
freshmen are really mature for their
age,” St. John’s senior Kelly
McMammon said. “They are leaders
already this year. Us seniors are more
than ready to go. We have waited
our whole careers to get here. Joy
[McCorvey] and I are just determined
to do our best and keep us on track.”
Junior point guard Sky
Lindsay agrees.

“We have a bunch of freshman that have come so far and played so great this year,” Lindsay said. “We are in the toughest conference and the freshman definitely proved and showed the world that they can hang with the big dogs.”

The Big East tied the Big 12 for most schools entering the tournament
with seven.

The team has already made history this season. Their No. 15 national ranking and 24 wins is tied with their best ever since 1983-84 season.

“People don’t make history all of the time. Making history as freshman is just great, it didn’t matter what seed we were as long as we made the tournament,” Smith said.