HEAD CAOCH JOANNE PERSICO
As the volleyball program enters its 23rd season, the only head coach in the team's NCAA Division I history and the longest tenured female coach in the history of St. John's athletics, Joanne Persico has successfully demonstrated how to build a team and bring it to national prominence.
Just one season after the program's inception in 1994, Persico led the team to a 24-10 record and its first BIG EAST Tournament berth in 1995. Flash forward to today and Coach Persico has led St. John's to a total of nine 20-win seasons, seven BIG EAST Tournament berths, three BIG EAST Regular Season Championships (2006, 2007, 2008), a BIG EAST Tournament Championship in 2007, two NCAA Tournament Appearances (2006, 2007), an NCAA Round of 16 appearance in 2007, a silver medal in the 2007 Vietnam Television Cup, and an overall record of 440-300 (.595). Persico is the only collegiate volleyball coach in the Metropolitan region to take a team to the NCAA Round of 16.
Between 2006 and 2008, the Red Storm celebrated its most decorated stretch of volleyball and established itself as a national contender. Persico and the Red Storm went 31-5 in 2006, including a perfect 14-0 in BIG EAST Conference play, to earn the program's first regular season conference championship. St. John's made its fourth appearance at the BIG EAST Championships, winning its first-ever postseason match against USF in the quarterfinals and its first NCAA Tournament bid. The Red Storm was the only BIG EAST team to advance to the second round of the 64-team tournament, as it defeated Albany, 3-1, in the opening round.
In 2007, Persico led the team to a program-best 33-4 record, its first appearance in the NCAA Tournament Round of 16, and finished the season with a No. 13 national ranking in the final CSTV/AVCA Top 25 Coaches Poll. The squad captured its first BIG EAST Tournament Title by sweeping Louisville on national television, 3-0, in the championship match and for the second-straight year, finished atop the BIG EAST regular season standings. Also during the season, the squad picked up its first win over a ranked opponent when it defeated then-No. 24 Long Beach State at Carnesecca Arena on Sept. 1, 2007, and broke many program records with single-season bests in wins (33), 3-0 sweeps (23), kills (2,197), hitting percentage (.282) and assists (2,056).
Persico and the Red Storm extended the accomplishments internationally in the summer of 2007, becoming the first U.S. women's volleyball team to compete in Vietnam. St. John's participated in the Vietnam Television (VTV) Cup International Women's Volleyball Tournament, which showcased 11 teams from nine different countries with SJU representing the United States. Persico coached her team to a silver medal after defeating club teams from China and Vietnam, and national teams from Sri Lanka, Thailand and Japan.
Most recently, Persico guided her squad to its ninth 20-win season as the Red Storm went 20-12 in 2012 and made its seventh BIG EAST Tournament in program history.
A 2006 and 2007 College Volleyball Update (CVU) Honorable Mention Coach of the Year and 2006 AVCA Northeast Region Coach of the Year, Persico has coached one AVCA All-American and 12 honorable mentions, 14 AVCA Northeast Regional All-Americans, two AVCA Northeast Region Freshman of the Year, two BIG EAST Players of the Year, one CVU National Setter of the Year, two National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) All-Americans, a three-time winner of the BIG EAST Libero of the Year, one BIG EAST Rookie of the Year and 25 All-BIG EAST selections. Persico also received the 2006 BIG EAST Coach of the Year honor almost exactly 20 years to the day after being named the 1986 BIG EAST Player of the Year at Syracuse. She was also awarded the AVCA Division I Northeast Region Volleyball Coach of the Year in 2006 and named to the Collegiate Volleyball Update National Coach of the Year honorable mention in 2007.
According to the American Volleyball Coaches Association, Persico also owns the distinction of being part of the 7% of volleyball head coaches who have stayed at one university and have coached for over 15 years as well as being part of just 3% of all female head coaches who have been at one university as a head coach for 15 years.
In addition to her reputation on the court, Persico's high academic standards have made a consistent impact on all of her squads in the classroom. The 2015-16 season marked the 22nd time in 22 seasons of the program's existence that the squad has earned a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or better.
SJU volleyball has received the AVCA Team Academic Award, which honors teams that display excellence in the classroom by maintaining a cumulative GPA of 3.3 or higher, on 11 separate occasions, including most recently the 2015-16 academic year with a 3.51 GPA. St. John's was also honored in 2014-15 (3.32 GPA), 2013-14 (3.40 GPA), 2010-11 (3.31 GPA), 2008-09 (3.30 GPA), 2006-07 (3.45 GPA), 2000-01 (3.30 GPA), 1999-00 (3.30 GPA), 1997-98 (3.44 GPA), 1996-97 (3.54 GPA) and 1995-96 (3.48 GPA). In addition, Persico has coached over 60 BIG EAST Academic All-Stars.
Persico is also an active member of the St. John's community and speaks at many events including the annual Women of Distinction Dinner, Campus Ministry Lectures, Women in Sports Days, New York's Empire State Games, and even sang the opening day national anthem at Citi Field on March 29, 2009.
As the founder of the program, the Queens-bred head coach earned a dual degree from Syracuse University's Newhouse School of Communications and the Maxwell School of Business in 1987 in just three years, while earning three letters on the Orange's volleyball team. Persico was one of the first New York City volleyball players to receive a volleyball scholarship to play for SU, and capped her outstanding career with an induction into the Orange Plus Hall of Fame in 1988. The former setter was named BIG EAST Player of the Year and team MVP following her senior campaign in 1986. She was a GTE/CoSIDA Academic All-American and a member of the BIG EAST All-Academic team. In 1985, she received the Verhulst Award, which is given to Syracuse's Sportswoman of the Year. Persico has since obtained her M.B.A. from St. John's in 1991, holds her professional diploma, and is currently a doctoral candidate in instructional leadership at SJU.
A St. Francis Prep High School graduate and volleyball standout at the Queens School, Persico was selected as an inaugural member of the Catholic High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame in 1991. In 2004, she was inducted into her third New York State Hall of Fame, the St. Francis Prep High School Hall of Fame, which also includes former New York Yankees and current Los Angeles Dodgers Manager Joe Torre and NFL coaching legend Vince Lombardi. She was recently awarded a seat on the St. Francis Prep Board of Trustees and served as President of the Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) for Brooklyn and Queens from 2007-09. In 2013, she was selected as an inaugural member of the St. Francis Prep Ring of Honor Award. Located in Queens, St. Francis Prep is the largest private catholic high school in the country.
Still active on the court today, Persico competed in the U.S. Volleyball Nationals in 2009, the top level of open volleyball in the country, teaming up with former Olympians and AVCA All-Americans, as well as standout NCAA student-athletes, on the Exterminators Volleyball Club. She is a 30-year veteran and one of the most decorated players in Empire State Games history. In 2008, the New York City women's team became the first team in the open division to win five consecutive gold medals, as it defeated Long Island in a one-set playoff, 25-17. Persico led teams to the gold medal in 1998 and 2004-08, the silver in 2002-03 and the bronze medal in 1999.