Last year, the St. John’s volleyball team didn’t notch its eighth win of the season until Sep. 25 against DePaul. This year, the Red Storm didn’t have to wait so long.
After winning its first three matches in the St. John’s Classic, the Red Storm held off the University of Denver after losing the first set to start the season 8-1, much to head coach Joanne Persico’s delight.
“I think it’s a gradual growth, our expectations are high, and we always expect to win the Big East,” Persico said. “We know we have to get it back, and crawl and take little steps to get back to where we want to be, but I think 8-1 is a really good statement that we’re really working together, and we’re really learning how to win.”
After falling 25-18 in the first set against Denver, the Red Storm dominated the next three sets 25-9, 25-12, and 25-19 to go a perfect 4-0 in their home tournament.
Junior transfer Brunna Kronbauer helped spark the comeback in the second set, recording five kills and six digs.
Junior Darlene Ramdin, who led a young Red Storm team last season, finished with 10 kills.
“When Brunna came into that second game it really swung the momentum in our favor,” said Persico. “She had some really awesome attacks and really gutted it through and really helped lead our team.”
The Red Storm were led by junior transfer Anzelika Lukjanska, who finished the tournament with 40 kills and 31 digs in four games, including a team-high 13 kills and nine digs against Denver. Lukjanska was named the tournament’s MVP and junior transfer Brunna Kronbauer was named to the all-tournament team after recording 22 kills and 17 digs.
“We played pretty well, and I’m proud of my teammates, they played great,” said Lukjanska. “It’s important for me because I came from junior college and I was on a good level. I came here and didn’t want to sit on the bench, so I tried my best to do very well.”
Persico was pleased with Lukjanska’s vocal nature and leadership throughout the tournament.
“We need that energy,” she said. “We need more people to rise with her and push and fight. We don’t want all leaders-you can’t have all screamers on the court. But we know that she’s our court captain because she’s earned that title.”
Lukjanska’s emergence as a leader, along with the Red Storm’s other new faces, has added depth and maturity to a roster that featured seven underclassmen in 2009.
“We’re really pleased with where we are,” Persico said. “We brought in eight new players this year, unlike last year where we really only had seven players.”
Because of the Red Storm’s now stable roster, Persico is freed to play with lineups and let new leaders emerge.”We have a full team, so it gives us an opportunity to make some substitutions and make some adjustments,” she said.