It was a game that by all accounts should have been lost.
But in games like that, sometimes, just sometimes, the underdog team finds a way to play even against a team that is one of the better opponents they will face all season.
The Red Storm went down to play Villanova, the 14th-ranked team in the country, and fought tooth and nail to come away with a 1-1 tie on Oct. 20.
The tie breaks a six-game win streak that Villanova (10-1-3) had over St. John’s (8-4-4).
“It was a big game for us,” SJU defender Jen Pugsley said. “I think they had a lack of respect for us and when we came back and tied it, they got a little physical.
“Our confidence is pretty high,” Pugsley continued. “It was a big, big tie for us.”
The Wildcats took the lead in the 24th minute when Lindsey Finnegan found Laura Johnson with a touch pass on the left side of the net.
Johnson sent the ball to the left side of the net and past St. John’s goalie Tina Fogg for the 1-0 advantage.
Villanova would have several more chances in the first half, but couldn’t convert on any other scoring chances.
“Basically their forwards weren’t good enough to finish the opportunities,” said St. John’s Head Coach Ian Stone.
Fogg made five more saves in the half, and defender Claudia Rubino stopped a shot from finding its way into the net to keep the deficit at one goal.
‘Nova had a 10-4 advantage in first-half shots and the Villanova defense held St. John’s without a shot in the first 14 minutes of play.
St. John’s tied the match with just over 19 minutes left in regulation when Courtney Rett and Erin Henderson teamed up on a pretty play in front of the Wildcat goal.
Henderson sent the ball in front from the far side of the box, and Rett headed it past Villanova keeper Chrissy Dolan for her third goal of the season.
It was Henderson’s fifth assist of the year.
“We got a little bit of a sense that the goal was going to come for us,” Stone said. “Erin’s been playing really well, creating a lot. Courtney goes forward and she creates a bit of a spark.”
The Wildcats, which outshot the Red Storm 26-11, had chances to break the tie at the end of regulation and overtime, but Fogg made several of her career-high 15 saves to keep the score even.
Villanova had a chance to win at the end of the second overtime, but Julie Battista’s shot hit the crossbar.
“I still think they probably have a little more depth than us,” Stone said, “and so obviously the people on the field stepped it up a little more, especially replacing [injured midfielder] Joanna [Dawson.]”
The Red Storm return to action on Friday afternoon for a crucial game against Virginia Tech at Belson Stadium. The winner will earn the remaining spot in the Big East Tournament to be played next weekend.
If St. John’s wins, it will be the third time in the history of the program, and the first back-to-back appearances in the conference tournament.
An NCAA Tournament berth may also be in play. With games against the Hokies and Georgetown remaining, the Red Storm could be in line for an at-large bid if they don’t earn the automatic bid that comes with winning the Big East Tournament.
Last season, the selection committee picked eight Big East schools to participate in the postseason.