By Michael Canfarotta
For 18 years, Joanne Persico has been at the helm of St. John’s volleyball, taking the women’s program from infancy to national acclaim. Her recent achievement of 350 career wins is only one of the many accomplishments she has reached over her highly successful career.
It hasn’t always been easy. In the early stages of the program, she managed to step on some pretty big feet.
“When I first came in here, we had to put holes in Carnesecca Arena,” said Persico, referring to the holes drilled to put in volleyball nets. “He [former St. John’s basketball Coach Lou Carnesecca] wasn’t thrilled about that.”
Through it all, the Queens native has remained humble, remembering where she has come from. Her deep love for St. John’s emanates from the family environment that she compares to St. Francis Preparatory, her alma mater. She takes pride in representing the New York City community.
“We are focused on being a community, being a competitive team, sticking together and representing New York City so well,” said Persico.
The Syracuse University graduate now considers her community to be global. She recruits student-athletes from Poland to Hawaii, believing that her team is a great example of what this city is all about.
Senior Darlene Ramdin, a Diego Martin, Trinidad native, is one such example. Ramdin recently eclipsed the 1,000-kill plateau, placing her sixth all-time on the St. John’s kill list. The mass communications major plans on playing professionally for her national team after graduation and receiving her master’s degree at the same time.
She has no doubts that Persico is the right person to lead.
“She has a lot of experience and she knows what it takes to be at the top of the Big East,” said Ramdin. “With her experience and our hard work and dedication, we will make it.”
Experience is one thing that Persico does have. From 2006-08, the Storm captured three straight Big East regular season titles and one Big East tournament title. In that span they made two appearances in the NCAA Tournament, which included one trip to the Sweet 16.
“I remember that and I say, ‘Wow, I really want to get back there,’” said Persico.
The Storm are off to a 9-9 overall start this year. On Friday, they opened Big East play against Louisville, in which they lost 3-0. Persico believes her team can improve in a few areas.
“We are really working on more of a killer instinct … more business like this year than ever,” said Persico.
For now, there seems no end in sight for Persico. There are a few more things that she still wants to accomplish for a program she considers one of the best-kept secrets.
“I think I’ll know when it’s time to hang up my knee pads and it’s not time yet,” said Persico. “I still have a lot to prove and I still want to get to a Final Four one day.”