Senior forward Jen Leaverton’s overtime golden goal was the difference in a 1-0 win for the St. John’s women’s soccer team in their Big East home opener on Sept. 18th at Belson Stadium.
Leaverton scored in the 92nd minute for her fourth goal of the season and her third game winning goal of the season. She was set up by senior goalkeeper Kristen Russell off a save in the very first minute of overtime. Russell hit a drop kick to freshman Caitlyn McLaughlin who touched it off to Leaverton who then shot to the far left post right past UConn goalkeeper Jessican Dulski for the win.
“It’s funny because Kristen (Russell) had worked so hard yesterday on being able to get good connection with her drop kick and fortunately the two of them, Kristen and Jen (Leaverton) have been playing together for four years now so it’s something we talked about a little bit,” said head coach Ian Stone. “But with the wind, the Belson breeze, behind us we were able to get a great strike and then a decent touch by Caitlyn McLaughlin and then a fantastic finish by Jen. She thoroughly deserves it because she’s been playing so well all season.”
The win for the Red Storm was the 200th in the school’s history and the 160th career win at St. John’s for coach Stone.
“I was really happy with the way that we played,” said Stone. “Everybody involved with the program was a little bit disappointed with the way that we played on Thursday at Providence. It really is a mark of the kind of character that we have within our team to be able to bounce back and play as well as we did against a really good Connecticut team.”
It was a story of two halves for the Red Storm (5-3-1, 1-1-0 Big East) as they were pressured in the first half by the UConn (4-4-0, 1-1 Big East) offense.They kept Russell busy with nine shots in the first half.
The momentum switched at the start of the second half as the Red Storm started attacking more and more, testing Dulski. In the last seven minutes of the game alone the Red Storm put five shots on Dulski. With saves on headers by senior midfielder Anna Torregiano and sophomore midfielder Jen Gibbons, UConn was able to hold off the surge and take the game into overtime.
“The wind was a little bit of a factor,” said Stone. “It was difficult because the wind was pretty strong, and we couldn’t get on offense as much as we’d like to. That changes obviously in the second half. I think I said to the girls afterwards was I thought as the game wore on I thought they broke the spirit of the other team because they just wanted it so much more.”
It was an especially sweet win for Russell, who was celebrating her 22nd birthday. She made four saves and kept a clean sheet.
Russell also got the record for career wins at St. John’s as she passed Tina Fogg to get her 31st win. She now holds the St. John’s career records in wins, shut outs and goals against average.
St. John’s returns to action Sept. 23rd at 7p.m. against Villanova at Belson Stadium.