Johnnies crash out of NCAAs at hands of Virginia

It was déjà vu for the St. John’s men’s soccer team Sunday at Klöckner Stadium as it lost to Virginia for the second time this season by a 2-0 score line – only this time it came in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Virginia (11-5-5) captain Eric Bird was the difference for the home side as he assisted a goal in the first half and found the back of the net in the second.

“I’m proud of our guys,” St. John’s head coach Dr. Dave Masur said. “We had a tough, challenging schedule all year. We beat Delaware on the road, which was fantastic, but having to come back and play a well-rested and very strong athletic team in Virginia, we had a couple miscues and were a little unfortunate.”

The Cavaliers took the lead in the 34th minute when Bird latched onto a tightly whipped-in cross from Patrick Foss and headed across the face of goal where Ryan Zinkhan headed home. Bird doubled Virginia’s lead in the 63rd minute when he rose to meet Scott Thomsen’s corner and directed his headed shot past Red Storm (10-7-2) senior goalkeeper Rafael Diaz.

The Johnnies had a 9-8 advantage in shots, but could only direct four on target.

Diaz was only forced to record one save on the night, as the Tim Parker-led back line was able to snuff out a majority of the Cavaliers’ forays forward. The aerial balls were what did the Johnnies in.

“We just didn’t make sure that we had numbers around them in and around the box [on the goals],” Masur said.

Diaz walked off the pitch in Charlottesville as the program’s all-time leader in shutouts with 32. He was a part of a senior group that won a Big East tournament title in 2011 and appeared in three successive NCAA tournaments from 2011-2013.

“It’s been a special senior group,” Masur said. “I’m really pleased for those guys for what they’ve helped our team accomplish this year.”

While Masur puts this season behind him and prepares for the next, he stressed how much the team appreciated the fan support that followed the Johnnies from September all the way until the loss in Virginia.

“We’re looking forward to home games and great student participation for the upcoming years,” Masur said.

When the fans trek to Belson next August to fill the stands for the 2014 season, they can expect another run to the tournament.

“We always challenge our group to want more,” Masur said. “We want to go to Final Fours, we want to win national championships.”