St. John’s to Open Season with Fairleigh Dickinson on Saturday
The St. John’s women’s basketball program will open the 2020-21 season on the road, as the team travels to Hackensack, N.J. for a Saturday showdown with Fairleigh Dickinson.
The Johnnies and the Knights will tip off at 2 p.m. on NEC Front Row, with Jack Lido on the call from the Rothman Center.
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Embarking on the ninth season of the Joe Tartamella era, the Red Storm squad will look to build on its recent success in season openers, as the Johnnies have come out victorious in their last four.
St. John’s enters this season on the heels of a successful 2019-20 campaign that saw the Johnnies make a trip to the BIG EAST Tournament Semifinals for the first time since 2017. St. John’s would have received either a berth to the NCAA Tournament or a spot as the automatic qualifier for the WNIT before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down sports on March 12.
Despite the unconventional ending to last year, the Johnnies will look to carry over their success from a season ago, as they enjoyed their highest scoring output since the 1994-95 season, averaging 72.3 points per game. In addition, St. John’s was lethal from beyond the arc last year, snapping the program’s single-season record for made 3-pointers with 220, while also knocking down 77.4 percent of their tries from the free-throw line to set a new single-season mark.
After anchoring the Red Storm’s offense last year with 15.4 points per game, Staten Island native Qadashah Hoppie returns for her senior campaign. The 5-foot-7 guard will take on a significant role this year, serving as the team’s captain. Hoppie, who was a unanimous selection to the All-BIG EAST Preseason Team, enters the 2020-21 campaign as the league’s active leading scorer with 1,179 points. She has led the team in scoring in back-to-back seasons with a combined 837 points over the last two years. Hoppie had a hot hand from downtown last year, knocking down 2.7 triples per contest during league action, good enough for second best in the BIG EAST. With 74 3-pointers last season, she moved into third on the team’s all-time list with a combined 160.
Joining Hoppie on the conference’s preseason list was reigning BIG EAST Sixth Woman of the Year Leilani Correa. The 6-foot sophomore was recognized by espnW as a 2020-21 emerging player. The second-year guard served as a spark off the bench for St. John’s last season, averaging 12.8 points per game, for second best on the team. Correa turned in one of the most successful seasons for a rookie in Red Storm history, recording a trio of 30-point performances, the second-highest total among BIG EAST players. On Dec. 9 against Army, the Manchester, N.J., native tied the program’s rookie scoring record, registering a season-high 33 points.
The Johnnies add four new faces this season. In addition to rookies Sara Zabrecky and Danaijah Williams, St. John’s welcomes a pair of junior college standouts in Rayven Peeples and Fapou Semebene. The dynamic duo joins the Johnnies from Northwest Florida, where they led their squad to 27 wins, including an overtime victory against Gulf Coast State to claim the 2020 FCSAA/Region VIII Women’s Tournament Title.
Peeples, a NJCAA All-American Honorable Mention, led the Raiders in scoring with 14.0 points per game, knocking down 64.2 percent of her shots from the field for the fourth-best mark in the country. Semebene was a force on the glass for Northwest Florida, pulling down a team-high 9.2 rebounds per game to rank sixth overall in the conference. As a result of her stellar efforts, she was named to the NJCAA All-Panhandle Conference First Team.
Saturday’s matchup between the Knights and Red Storm marks the seventh all-time meeting between the two programs and the first since 2005 when St. John’s defeated FDU, 84-65, at Carnesecca Arena. In the two team’s last meeting Danielle Chambers, who is now a heavyweight boxer, led the way for the Johnnies with 21 points.
The FDU Knights were selected to finish fourth in the NEC Preseason Poll, their highest rank since 2015. A season ago, the Knights finished third in the conference, picking up their first NEC Tournament win in 28 years. Defense was an emphasis in the Knights game last season, as they ranked third in the conference in scoring defense (60.3 ppg). The Burgundy and Blue return four of their top five scorers from a season ago and nine players in total including senior forward Madison Stanley who averaged 10.7 points and 4.3 rebounds per contest.
Following Saturday’s matchup with FDU, St. John’s will return to Queens, welcoming Saint Peter’s to Carnesecca Arena on Dec. 1 for the team’s home opener. Tip-off is slated for 2 p.m.