The RedZone Storms Through Queens

TORCH PHOTO/ Sara Kiernan

TORCH PHOTO/ Sara Kiernan

There’s another storm coming to Queens—the St. John’s Red Storm, who are returning to full action this semester for the first time since March 2020. Alongside them is RedZone, the official St. John’s student section. After lying dormant for 18 months, fans are eager and ready to support the Johnnies this fall. 

RedZone kicked off the soccer season with a bang at the St. John’s Men’s Soccer home opener on Aug. 30. The student section, led by RedZone Committee Chair David Diano, hosted a pregame event featuring food trucks, backyard games and other activities. If the goal was to pack and energize the stands, it worked. “Our kickoff food truck event was a huge success! That was probably the game with the best attendance so far,” said Diano in a comment to The Torch. 

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, St. John’s University is limiting the number of people that can congregate indoors. There is no limit to the number of people that can attend outdoor events, however, and this allowed RedZone to hold their kickoff event during move-in week. The University has even allowed students and fans to go maskless at outdoor athletic events, though it still recommends unvaccinated students to wear a face covering in large, outdoor groups. 

The University’s lift of many restrictions that limited events last year allowed the student body to come out and support the Johnnies with full force. Both the grandstand and the goal lines were filled with a sea of red-wearing supporters for soccer games. According to St. John’s Athletics, the Men’s Soccer team has averaged 1,200 fans per game through five games at Belson Stadium in non-conference play. It was an unfamiliar atmosphere for a large portion of the student body. The freshman, sophomore, and transfer students of St. John’s had become all too familiar with the desolate emptiness of the Queens campus during the darkest days of the pandemic. Diano adds, “I feel after 18 months of no sports, the desire for our students to be back in that setting is greater than ever.”

The effort was not in vain as the Red Storm have performed favorably in their non-conference schedules. Men and Women’s Soccer have performed particularly well, closing out non-conference play at 4-2 and 4-2-1, respectively. Could their success be in part due to the energy brought by RedZone and the fans? Big East Conference Weekly Honor Roll recipient and Men’s Soccer midfielder Brandon Knapp thinks so. “It’s been great getting the fans back,” said Knapp in an exclusive Torch interview. “It’s awesome, we really feed off [of] their energy, [and] we’ve had a lot of fans here.” 

Diano sees the effect that the fans have on the outcome of games firsthand, and hopes part of the cause is RedZone. “I like to think the RedZone plays a big part in the success of home athletics games,” said Diano. “When we get big and passionate crowds of students together, not only do they feed off of each other’s energy, but the teams do as well.” From Albany goalkeeper Carlos Tofern kicking the goalpost in frustration after allowing a goal to Columbia defender Keenan Foley breaking focus to laugh at RedZone’s chants, Diano appears to be correct. This is all part of the plan, as Diano said he would “like to think we do a very good job of giving them a hard time [because] it is all part of the fun of the game.” 

The return of University sports has also been an unwelcome reminder that the COVID-19 pandemic is ongoing. The St. John’s Women’s Soccer Team announced a match cancellation due to COVID-19 concerns within their opponent’s program just last week. The hope is that University guidelines, including mandatory vaccination, testing and masking, will prevent COVID-19 issues within the Red Storm. Only time will tell. 

For now, RedZone will hope to back St. John’s student-athletes on their path to a successful fall season. At the time of writing, all University teams carry a winning percentage of .500 or better in non conference play. With Big East Conference play beginning, our St. John’s students are ready and able to rally behind St. John’s Athletics once again.