Ian Stone faced a daunting task this past offseason.
Fresh off his women’s soccer program’s first-ever NCAA Tournament berth last season, the head coach had to replace 16 seniors on his roster for the 2010 season, building his “Noah’s Ark” before men’s basketball coach Steve Lavin began building his.
So the coach went all over the country, to California and Florida, Kansas City and Kentucky. Stone plucked eight freshmen from those areas, and even recruited in Canada, all to maintain his program’s momentum and reach the NCAAs for a second straight year.
“Our goals are always pretty high recruiting,” said Stone, currently in his 17th season at St. John’s. “But it was easier last year because of the success of the program. When a lot of these girls watched us play, we weren’t only successful with the results of the games but also they met great role models (from that
team) and saw what they can be molded into.”
The program’s first selling point came as a result of road wins at Cal-State Fullerton and USC last year, as it opened a pipeline to California that wasn’t as prominent as in years’ past.
“The game against USC put us on the national map,” Stone said. “It was instrumental in getting some girls from the west coast. Maybe they haven’t heard about us before that game.”
Last year, the Red Storm’s 2-1 overtime loss to No. 3 Notre Dame in the Big East semi-final game
was aired on television on Long Island, where Stone typically has recruiting success.
“If you saw one game, you’ve seen the same thing,” Stone said.
“The style, the hard work and that everyone were committed to the team.”
Despite the unquestionable progress of the program, Stone’s recruiting pitch hasn’t changed: academics and getting them ready for their careers off the soccer field.
“[Stone] really didn’t focus too much on the team’s record, or how good the team was,” freshmen
Sarah Ashmore said. “He was focusing on the community, academics and building us as people. The type of people he recruits is great. It made me want to come here because it’s a family.”
Stone says unlike previous years, he now tries to recruit for more than just the best possible soccer
players. The reason isn’t just because it’s conducive to winning, but because of the positivity it adds to the St. John’s environment.
“I think personality is huge because we’re more than just a soccer program,” Stone said. “We’re trying to do well in the classroom, well in the community and trying to be leaders in the athletic department and university. That’s one of the most important things for us.”