St. John's Volleyball Celebrates A Championship Tradition From 2000-09|
May 27, 2010
QUEENS, N.Y. - With the 2010 volleyball season just a few months away, the St. John’s volleyball team and head coach Joanne Persico are preparing to open a new chapter of success for the Red Storm. The STJ volleyball program looks to build on the high level of success that it achieved over the past decade.
“I am very proud of all the former players who have taken the program from scratch to such heights and accomplished such national and international success,” said Persico. “I have experienced many wonderful and breath-taking moments and have created unforgettable memories. We are a true family and we will always be connected through St. John’s and the sport of volleyball.”
St. John’s opened the 21st century with an impressive 25-8 mark thanks in large part to the stellar play of Olga Roudovski and Robyn Kurasaki. Roudovski led the BIG EAST in kills per game with 4.78 and completed her STJ career as the school’s all-time leader in kills with 1,541. She was named to the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) All-Northeast Region first team and became St. John's first All-BIG EAST first team honoree. Kurasaki tallied 1,369 assists in her 2000 freshman campaign and became the first STJ player to be named AVCA Northeast Region Freshman of the Year. She was also named BIG EAST Rookie of the Year.
After going 18-8 in 2001 and 16-16 in 2002, Persico guided the Red Storm to a 26-9 mark in 2003. The year was filled with outstanding individual achievements. Jackie Ahlers became the first St. John’s player to be named an AVCA Honorable Mention All-American after tallying a then school-record 608 kills. Ahlers also received AVCA All-Northeast Region first team and All-BIG EAST first team honors. Kurasaki rounded out her St. John’s career with a school-record 4,751 assists.
In 2004, the Red Storm recorded the 200th program victory, went 15-16, and boasted two in-season tournament titles, finishing the season on the AVCA Division I Regionally Ranked list. Ahlers re-wrote the STJ record books again, setting the single-season school record in kills at 646 and completing her career as STJ’s all-time kills queen with 1,766. Ahlers also set a new BIG EAST single-season record for kills that season. For the second straight year, Ahlers was named an AVCA Honorable Mention All-American after receiving AVCA All-Northeast Region first team and All-BIG EAST first team honors.
St. John’s put together a stellar campaign in 2005. The Red Storm went 23-9 and 9-5 in BIG EAST action. The team advanced to the quarterfinals of the BIG EAST Tournament before falling to Cincinnati, 3-1. Hui Ping Huang burst onto the scene with a standout freshman season, leading the team with a .330 hitting percentage and 367 kills. Huang was tabbed AVCA Northeast Freshman of the Year and was named an All-Northeast Region honorable mention and All-BIG EAST first team honoree.
The Red Storm reached new heights in 2006 when Persico directed the team to its first ever BIG EAST regular season championship with a 14-0 record in conference play. The team went 31-5 on the year and earned the program’s first NCAA Tournament bid. With the at-large bid, STJ advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament where it fell to then-No. 9 Minnesota, 3-2. Huang and Wioleta Leszczynska were named AVCA Honorable Mention All-Americans. Both also earned spots on the AVCA All-Northeast Region team. Huang was named St. John's first BIG EAST Player Of The Year and received All-BIG EAST first team honors. Huang’s 404 kills and .327 hitting percentage ranked in the top 10 of STJ’s single-season record list. Leszczynska was tabbed for the all-conference second team following an outstanding season as St. John’s primary setter, totaling 1,296 assists. Lena Yee was named BIG EAST Libero of the Year after totaling a whopping 552 digs.
In the summer of 2007, St. John’s traveled to Vietnam to compete in the VTV (Vietnam Television) International Women’s Volleyball Cup. Despite being the only college team competing against a collection of national and club teams, the Red Storm advanced to the title match before falling to the national team from Vietnam, 3-1. St. John’s brought home the silver medal while Yee, Huang and Leszczynska were all named to the All-Tournament team, earning Best Libero, Best Spiker and Best Setter honors respectively.
St. John’s capitalized on that momentum just months later, enjoying the greatest season in program history in 2007 when the team posted a 33-4 overall record and 13-1 mark in conference play. The Red Storm won its first ever BIG EAST Tournament championship with a 3-0 sweep of Louisville on national television. St. John’s earned its second regular-season title as BIG EAST regular season co-champions with Louisville. STJ finished the season as NCAA Regional Semifinalists after a remarkable run in the NCAA tournament that included first-round and second-round victories on its home court in Carnesecca Arena. The Red Storm fell to eventual national runner up Southern California in the “Final Sixteen” game.
Huang (529 kills) and LaToya Blunt (421 kills) hammered the way up front for the Red Storm in 2007 and Leszczynska (school-record 1,760 assists) and Yee (school-record 2007 digs) were unstoppable in support. Huang became St. John’s first ever AVCA All-American, earning third team honors, while also setting the STJ single-season hitting percentage record at .447. Blunt’s .358 hitting percentage was good for second-best all-time. Huang and Blunt closed out their St. John’s careers as two of STJ’s greatest net players. Blunt ranks third all-time in kills with 1,398 and Huang is fourth with 1,300. Huang’s .372 career hitting percentage is a Red Storm record.
Leszczynska, Yee and Blunt were all named 2007 AVCA Honorable Mention All-Americans. Yee earned her second straight BIG EAST Libero of the Year award. All four players were also All-BIG EAST honorees. Leszczynska was recognized by CVU.com as a National Setter of the Year Honorable Mention. Persico received a CVU.com National Coach of the Year Honorable Mention. The team finished the year ranked No. 13 in the CSTV/AVCA Top 25 Volleyball Coaches Poll.
The Red Storm won its third consecutive BIG EAST regular season title in 2008, finishing as co-champions with Cincinnati. St. John’s finished the year 22-9 and 12-2 in BIG EAST play. The team advanced to the BIG EAST Tournament semifinals where it fell to Notre Dame 3-1. Leszczynska, Yee and Valeria Kovaleva were named AVCA Honorable Mention All-Americans and the trio was named to the AVCA All-Northeast Region Team and the All-BIG EAST first team. Leszczynska was BIG EAST Player of the Year and Yee won her unprecedented third straight BIG EAST Libero of the Year. Casie Brooks was named to the All-BIG EAST second team. Yee finished her St. John’s career as the school’s all-time leader in digs with 2,079. Leszczynska concluded her STJ career with 4,374 assists, ranking third on the all-time list.
The Red Storm earned the AVCA Team Academic Award three times throughout the decade in 2000, 2006 and 2008, as the team maintained a cumulative GPA of 3.3 throughout those seasons.