Diaz rebounds in net from tough start

Last Sunday, freshman goalkeeper Rafael Diaz played the goat, pulled in favor of fellow freshman Alex Naples after allowing four goals in 63 minutes against Virginia.

This weekend, Diaz was back in net and played the hero, making nine saves in St. John’s 2-1 victory over Boston University Sunday, including several in the closing minutes.

His teammates were glad to have him behind them.

 “He’s a great shot-stopper,” said senior defender Sverre Wegge Gundhus. “As a defender, it’s comforting to have him back there.”

Diaz was challenged from inside the box all night, often at point-blank range. He relied on positioning and his

instincts to get to the ball.

“I’m just trying to get in a good spot,” he said. “When the ball comes in,

I make sure my feet are set and react to make the save.”

In addition to his career-high nine saves, the freshman recorded a rare keeper assist on the Johnnies’ first goal.

His punt in the 34th minute skipped through three Terrier defenders until it found freshman midfielder Dom Sarle in the box, who chipped it over BU keeper Brandon Briggs for his second goal of the year.

“I think it was my first [assist from a keeper],” said Sarle. “Raffy had a big kick. [Senior forward John] Tardy did well to get across his man and I was lucky enough to sneak in from behind and tuck it away.”

“I don’t know the last time I had one,” Diaz said with a laugh. “It’s been a while.”

His college career has gotten off to a rollercoaster start. After earning a shutout with six saves in his first career start against Virginia Tech, he allowed four goals against Virginia while only stopping three shots.

He resolved to stay focused after that game.

 “After that game, we came back with a mindset that we have to grind out every game and come out with the same intensity,” he said.

But in Friday’s 5-0 thrashing of Fairleigh Dickinson, the ball hardly got within fifty yards of Diaz. He didn’t

record a save until the second half and finished with just three in combining with Naples to keep a clean sheet.

He saw plenty of action Sunday, however. BU bombarded the freshman with 21 shots, 11 of which hit the target. Only one got through.

“We know that if we put one or two in, he’s not letting up too many goals this year,” Sarle said. “It gives us a lot

of confidence.”

Head coach, Dave Masur has kept his praise fairly minimal.

 “He’s a freshman. He’s a goalkeeper. Goalkeepers are supposed to make saves. That’s what we expect out of our keepers, and we expect them to do a good job. That’s why he’s in goal.”

He may not know what he has for the long haul in Diaz, but on Sunday night at least, the freshman

did exactly what was expected of

him—make saves.