0It definitely took longer than expected for the St. John’s women’s soccer team to hear their NCAA Tournament fate. After waiting 15 minutes longer than the rest of the nation’s teams due to the lack of Wi-Fi connection, the Red Storm heard the news they were awaiting: they were going dancing.
“That was weird,” head coach Ian Stone said. “I didn’t expect that to happen. But it just added to tension a little bit.”
“[It was] horrible, honestly. I’ve been waiting all day for that. But then to have it extended by that technical difficulty was awful,” senior defender Georgia Kearney-Perry said. “But it was well worth it.”
This historic Red Storm group checked off another first for the program, as they will play host to their first ever NCAA Tournament game on Saturday night at 7 p.m.
They will be welcoming the Boston University Terriers to Belson Stadium. The selection marks the third appearance in the NCAA Tourney for the Red Storm (2009, 2013, 2015).
“It’s absolutely massive,” Kearney-Perry said of the game at Belson Stadium. “I always had hopes and good positive vibes going into this that we would make it. But to host a game is like a different level, especially on Belson where we are a very good home team and take a lot of pride playing on that field. I’m just so excited to get the chance to play on that field again.”
Even though Boston University might not be a hugely recognized elite national program, they are a team to watch. The Terriers (12-5-3) are experienced in the NCAA Tournament as they have made it 10 of the last 11 years. They have won the Patriot League title for three consecutive years and have a coach in Nancy Feldman that has been their leader for the last 21 seasons.
On the offensive side of things for the Terriers, the teams leading offensive threats are freshman forward McKenna Doyle, who has six goals and three assists on the year and senior Jenna Fisher, who has scored five times and assisted on four others. The Terriers defense is one of the better back lines in the nation. Senior keeper Alyssa Parisi anchors the Terriers’ defense and with Parisi in net, the team has a goals against average of .68 and are 12-3-3 when Parisi is in goal.
Boston University’s struggles this season seem to come when they move away from their home turf at Nickerson Field and go on the road. The Terriers are 4-3-3 on the road and 8-1 at home. That is a statistic that could play right into the Red Storm’s hands, as they are undefeated at Belson this season.
“I think we are 6-0 this year on Belson and play pretty well here,” Stone said. “Boston University is a great team and I’m not going to say it’s going to be an easy game by any means because I have the utmost respect for them. But I would certainly rather be playing them here than at their place.”
The home game at Belson and even making the NCAA Tournament itself was something that the team was unsure of after its loss to Butler in the Big East semifinals last Friday night. Even though Butler ended up winning the Big East Tournament, the Red Storm won the Big East regular season championship and the team had three wins in the regular season versus teams to make the NCAA’s (Butler, Farleigh Dickinson, and Boston College).Due to those victories, the selection committee had no choice but to make the Red Storm a tournament team.
“I was in tears after our game on Friday,” senior forward Rachel Daly said. “I slept in my uniform. I didn’t want to take it off. To get this chance again is obviously huge for us. I want to play in this uniform as long as I can.”
“I was confident, until we lost to Butler. Then I thought anything could happen,” Stone said. “Obviously some of these conferences like the ACC, SEC and the Big Ten were stronger than the Big East and I didn’t want that to hold us back because the girls have done everything asked of them. I’m happy to get in and really really happy to host.”
One more home game also gives the senior class one more chance to play on their home turf and in front of the St. John’s faithful crowd one final time.
“They’re deserving of it,” Stone said. “I wasn’t sure it was going to happen. Obviously it’s the first time we have ever hosted an NCAA game. But it is really because of that group of seniors that have turned the program around. It’s a reward for them for everything they have put in over the years.”
“To have another chance at Belson is great,” Kearney-Perry said. “I hope we have a good crowd out there on Saturday. It’s going to be amazing. I can’t wait.”
St. John’s is six wins away from every college soccer team’s dream of a National Championship and coach Stone isn’t shy about how far this group can go.
“Anytime these girls have been given a challenge they have risen to the occasion,” Stone said. “I wouldn’t fear anybody that we are matched up against. I still think there’s more to come from this group because some of the freshmen are improving rapidly as the season goes on.”