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St. John's women are thrilled after making NCAA Tournament

The St. John's women's basketball team reacts to

The St. John's women's basketball team reacts to news of its at-large selection and No. 6 seed for the NCAA Tournament at the ESPN Zone in Times Square. St. John's will face Princeton in a first-round game on Saturday in Tallahassee, Fl. (March 15, 2010) Photo Credit: Photo by Vincent Dusovic

St. John's couldn't hide its excitement while gathered at the ESPN Zone in Times Square last night.

For the second time in five years, the Red Storm is heading to the women's NCAA Tournament.

Sixth-seeded St. John's will take on No. 11 Princeton in a first-round game Saturday in Tallahassee, Fla.

There was a bit of sweating involved, though, as the team's name wasn't announced until the final bracket.

"I was like 'finally,' " sophomore forward Da'Shena Stevens said. "We were waiting this whole time and got a little anxious."

Once it was official, the party started.

"We had an outstanding year and some great wins," Storm coach Kim Barnes Arico said.

St. John's turned heads with a win over then-No. 3 Notre Dame. That was followed by a road win over Rutgers. St. John's had lost 17 straight to the Scarlet Knights.

"This shows that we are building something special," said Stevens, who leads the team in scoring (14.2) and rebounding (7.6).

With a roster that featured five freshmen, three sophomores and two seniors, not much was expected from St. John's this season.

The Storm was picked 12th in the Big East preseason coaches poll.

But all of the prognostications and predictions were thrown out the window once the ball hit the floor.

Senior forward Joy McCorvey said she knew what was in store for St. John's after watching the freshmen play last summer.

"You always hope your coaches recruit great players," McCorvey said. "When they got here, I was like, 'Wow, we're going to have a good team.' You can tell when they came in, they wanted to work."

It's been a long, winding road for McCorvey, a four-year starter. St. John's went 8-20 her freshman season.

A lot has changed since then for McCorvey and St. John's (24-6, 12-4 Big East), which was ranked 17th in the final Associated Press poll.

"I still don't feel complete, because it's not over yet," McCorvey said. "I want us to do big things in the tournament and really make a name for St. John's."

What's most impressive about St. John's run is that its backcourt is comprised of freshmen Shenneika Smith (13 ppg, 5 reb.) and Nadirah McKenith (7.3 ppg, 5 asst.).

Former North Babylon standout Eugeneia McPherson also has added a spark.

Smith admitted that St. John's quick ascension in the Big East standings was unexpected.

"I thought it would've taken us a lot longer to come together, but we have such a good chemistry," Smith said. "There isn't a day that goes by when we don't push each other. We're sisters on and off the court."

With a strong foundation and added exposure from the NCAA Tournament, Barnes Arico and the rest of the team are convinced the program will continue to improve.

"I feel like we're here to stay," Barnes Arico said. "We have a great group coming back and we're going to get better."

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