The St. John’s women’s soccer team continued their unbeaten record at Belson Stadium this season with a 2-0 win against Big East opponent Villanova on a rainy Friday night.
A first half goal from sophomore midfielder, Jen Gibbons, and a second half strike from junior midfielder, Runa Stefansdottir, lifted the Red Storm (6-3-1, 2-1-0 Big East) to victory.
The first half goal resulted from a quick give-and-go at the top of the box between Gibbons and freshman forward, Caitlyn McLaughlin.
The end result was a right-footed finish to the low corner of the far post.
“I was in the moment,” said Gibbons. “It was a combination play between two or three players. I combined, and then it seemed like the defenders just parted and I was able to find that through ball right there.”
The goal came in a first half where the Johnnies controlled possession throughout and had an edge in shots, 5-2.
As the rain continued to storm down as the second half began, the Red Storm quickly found themselves in a situation that they had not experienced in the first half; Villanova (4-5-2, 0-3-0 Big East) controlled a great deal of the possession and were close to scoring on a number of occasions.
The Wildcats were awarded two direct free kicks and created a number of chances after they switched to a 3-4-3 formation at the beginning of the half.
Head coach Ian Stone employed more defensive tactics as a result
“In the second half, they came out in a 3-4-3 so we had to switch to a 4-4-2 (from 4-3-3) in the end,” said Stone. “The girls did well actually to make the switch in the middle of the game and not miss a beat.”
Instead of possessing the ball in the middle of the field as they did in the first half, the Red Storm used the flanks and launched long balls at a higher rate in the second half.
In the 75th minute, the Johnnies scored a quick, counter-attack goal against the run of play. After absorbing a Villanova attack, the Red Storm defense cleared their lines and sent a ball to sophomore midfielder, Morgan Ritter. Ritter drilled a low through ball in the direction of Stefansdottir on the left flank. The Iceland native darted into the eighteen yard box and hit a shot, that was about waist high, into the near post of Villanova’s net[s2] to give the Red Storm an insurance goal.
The Johnnies were able to walk away with a win despite playing in a driving rain on the field turf at Belson Stadium.
“I think we have to get used to it,” Stone said about playing in the rain. “A lot of times on Belson on a Friday night it gets rainy. It’s something we prepared for. We did a lot of work in practice a couple times in the rain this week”
Stefansdottir provided a spark off the bench. She came on in the 34th minute and played all of the final 56 minutes. She led the team in shots with three, including her goal in the 75th minute where she used her speed to get behind the Villanova defense on a St. John’s counter-attack.
“If she plays like she did tonight, she might not be off the bench (in the future),” said Stone. “I’ll give her every credit; she’s a kid that played a lot last year and started for us last year and for one reason or another, she’s been coming off the bench. It’s really a compliment to her and her character, the fact that she can make that impact. It’s fitting that she scored that goal tonight.”
With Friday night’s win, the Johnnies improved to 2-1 in the Big East. Their next match is on Sunday September, 25 against Georgetown at 1 p.m. at Belson Stadium.