There was one word to describe the 2001 St. John’s women’s soccer team – inconsistent.
Despite making the Big East Tournament for the first time in six seasons, the Red Storm went 6-11 and lost games to local squads like Fordham and Stony Brook, teams that they would usually dominate.
Gone are leaders such as Lisa Rinaldi, Marissa Stork and Kristy Bergen. Gone is the pavement-like turf of DaSilva Field.
Heading into the 2002 season, things look upbeat for the Johnnies, despite a roster turnover that shows eight new faces as well as a brand new stadium.
“The difference between other years is that we made our goal to make the Big East Tournament,” said goalie Tina Fogg. “This year, we know we’re going to get to the Big East Tournament, our goal is to make the NCAA Tournament.”
The Red Storm will again be led by their defense, a group that posted four shutouts last season. Anchoring the defense is senior captain Jen Taylor.
Taylor has been a rock in front of the net and rarely makes a mistake in marking an opponent.
Junior Courtney Rett continues to improve on two stellar campaigns and overpowers opponents while possessing the ability to move up and contribute offensively.
Sophomore Pristina Alford utilizes her speed to cut off opponents and like Rett can also contribute on the offensive end.
Freshman Andrea Coukoulis, a highly touted defender from Scottsdale, Ariz.,will have an immediate impact on the back line.
“The only reason that I’m successful is because of my defense,” Fogg said. “There are no four people I’d rather have in front of me.”
Seniors Jen Pugsley and Theresa Bulman, junior Claudia Rubino and sophomore Kati Schantz add depth to the guardians of the goal.
“I think the defense is going to be solid,” Head Coach Ian Stone said. “I see that being one of our strengths. The players that we have there are going to keep us in games.”
Fogg will be the beneficiary of such high quality protection that she will continue to climb higher in the St. John’s record books. Heading into the 2002 campaign, the senior is among the leaders for both single-season and career goalie records.
With her first win of the season, Fogg will pass Sherry Reill and become the school’s winningest goalkeeper, notching 23 victories in her career.
Fogg also needs just three more shutouts to top Reill as SJU’s stingiest keeper.
“She’s got all these records but I think the best is yet to come,” Stone said. “She worked harder in the summer than she ever has.”
Freshman Tracey Rollings will serve as Fogg’s backup. The England native was a member of England’s Under-19 International Team and will be groomed to inherit Fogg’s position in 2003.
Co-captain Joanna Dawson has to fill the midfield position after the graduation of Rinaldi, Bergen and Karyn Lundgren. The senior appeared in 17 games last season and will be the unquestioned leader in the middle of the field this year. Sophomore Lauren McGrory joins Dawson as the only other returning midfielder, putting pressure on freshmen Erin Henderson, Mallory DiMaio, Laura Burlacu and Stephanie Ramia to come in and contribute right away.
Up front, senior Heather Cook and sophomore Dominica Reina will need to produce more than their combined five points last season, because Erin Zambelli will miss the first half of the season due to illness.
The Red Storm need to replace Zambelli’s offense-the senior scored 21 goals in her first three seasons, 10 of which were game-winners.
“We miss her not only for the goals but for the person she is,” Stone said. “She’s a great leader on the field.
“We’re very optimistic that she may come back and play this season and depending on the timing that could be a huge boost for us.”
Reina is capable of putting up gaudy offensive numbers. In high school she scored 135 goals in her career, 60 in her senior season alone.
Sophomore Denisse Vallejo and freshman Katie Schmidt are expected to contribute to the offense as well.
Belson Stadium will be the new home for the Johnnies, a facility that is state-of-the-art in every way.
“It’s such a different game [on grass],” Taylor said. It ‘s a little bit more forgiving if you make a mistake on grass.”
St. John’s will be playing in two tournaments during the season, the Miami (Ohio) Tournament and the Rutgers Tournament.
Both fields include teams that advanced to the NCAA Tournament last season, and will give the Storm a chance to improve their play before heading into the Big East portion of the schedule.
Away matches at Providence, Syracuse, Boston College and Seton Hall, combined with home games against UConn, Miami and Georgetown provide a challenge if the team is to return to the Big East Tournament for the second straight season.