Stone Plans for Life without Leaverton

The St. John’s women’s soccer team is looking to replace the gap left by the departure of senior forward Jen Leaverton.

Leaverton scored 10 of the team’s 21 goals last season and was the cornerstone of a young team that won five games in the Big East. Replacing her will be no easy task, but head coach Ian Stone is confident that his team is capable of doing so.

“I can’t talk about last season without mentioning Jen Leaverton,” Stone said. “She was fantastic, but certainly we have a lot more people more experienced and it’s actually boding well for the future because so far the spring has been very positive.”

St. John’s will be returning some key pieces from last year’s team. Stone said he will look to few players to replace Leaverton’s production by committee, including returning sophomores Caitlyn McLaughlin and Chelsey Martino as well as returning junior Morgan Ritter.

“We have four forwards at the moment that are playing really well,” he said. “It would be more of a group effort to try and replace Jen but I think we are trying to move in the right direction with it.”

The loss of Leaverton to graduation also comes after what could be described as a roller coaster of a season. The Red Storm started the season 8-4-1, before losing their next four games. Down to the last game of the season, a home game with Syracuse, the Red Storm needed a win to make the Big East Tournament.

So after a successful video campaign – in which multiple players declared “win and we’re in” – asking the fans and students to come and support them, St. John’s qualified for the Big East Tournament with a 2-0 victory over Syracuse in front of the largest crowd ever at Belson Stadium for a women’s soccer game of 1,910.

But in the first round of the tournament, the Red Storm lost a heartbreaker to Seton Hall. On a rainy and cold night in South Orange, N.J., Ashley Beamish of the Pirates was able to slip one by goalkeeper Lauren Ferris in the 89th minute to end the Johnnies’ season.

“Obviously we had the big win here against Syracuse that took us into the Big East Tournament, and to be honest the Seton Hall game could have gone either way so we were disappointed to not have carried on our postseason a little further than that,” Stone said. “But at the same time, there are a lot of positives from the season. We are still a comparatively young team, so there are a lot of people who really grew up.”

The Red Storm finished the season 9-9-1 and 5-6-0 in Big East play. With the season behind them the Johnnies are already practicing and getting ready for the 2012 season.

“The offseason’s really good, the team came in fit after winter break [and] really came in hard over the break to get where we are now, so then we had a great starting point for this spring,” said Ferris. “Practices have been going really well getting into bigger-sided games, which allows us to play with each other, get to know how everyone works together and how they play, which will definitely get us a great starting point for the fall.”

Ferris returns to the net for the Johnnies as the starter after taking over for senior Kristen Russell after she had a season-ending injury on Sept. 25 against Georgetown. Ferris, who will be a junior in the fall, is up to the challenges of a full season in net.

“Last season gave me a lot of game experience which is crucial to play as a colligate goalie,” said Ferris. “Each week we have to set goals as an individual player so my goals have been to get physically stronger – like my whole body – so by doing extra lifts on the weekends and then working with coach and then our strength and conditioning coach, Coach Rob [Basile]to do extra stuff to strengthen my wrists and forearms so I can get a better grip and hold on every shot.”