SJU, seniors complete weekend sweep

After losing to Virginia Tech six days earlier, the St. John’s men’s soccer team entered this past weekend knowing they had to play at their highest level.

And that’s exactly what they did, defeating 2002 Big East Champions Boston College 2-0 on Friday night and then followed that with an impressive 3-1 win over No. 10 Florida International on Saturday evening.

The weekend sweep gives the No. 9 Red Storm (12-4-2, 8-2-0) an opportunity to secure their first Big East regular season championship since 1997. A win at West Virginia on Nov. 1 would ensure SJU their fifth Big East regular season championship under Head Coach Dave Masur, and the first for this team’s seniors.

“It’s really important to me,” senior Chris Wingert said. “The Big East regular season is just such a grueling season against great teams. It’s among the top two or three, and to come out on top of that would just be a huge accomplishment. Hopefully we can go to West Virginia and take care of business.”

Despite the blistering cold at Belson Stadium Friday night, St. John’s was on fire, scoring twice in an important match-up with the Eagles.

SJU’s Simone Salinno scored his team-leading 11th goal of the season, while senior Tim O’Neill sealed the Storm win with a late goal, his first of the season.

St. John’s had six shots on goal and limited BC to just one, as they outshot their opponent, 15-7.

The momentum was sustained into Saturday evening, as St. John’s honored its graduating seniors and handily defeated a tough FIU squad.

Chris Wingert, Matia Damiani, Angel Rodriguez, Guy Hertz, O’Neill and manager Bill Goodwin were recognized before the contest on Senior Night in front of 1,056 at Belson Stadium.

The special pre-game festivities carried onto the field, as SJU seniors hooked up to give the home team an early 1-0 advantage.

Hermann Award Candidate Wingert sent a free kick from 20 yards out to the box, resulting in a diving header from fellow senior and classmate Angel Rodriguez that beat FIU goalkeeper Roy Rosenberg to the lower far post.

The Red Storm added to their one goal advantage in a hurry, striking early in the second half. Junior Chris Corcoran sent a cross from the middle of the field to freshman Ashley Kozicki, who was fouled on the play, resulting in an SJU penalty kick.

Wingert, who scored his first goal of the season on a penalty kick against Providence on Oct. 11, sent his shot to the lower far post beating Rosenberg, giving the Johnnies a 2-0 lead.

“Pretty much, not always,” Wingert said, when asked if he was always the guy who takes penalty kicks for St. John’s. “Since my sophomore year I’ve basically been taking them. This year I’ve felt pretty confident with them and I think the key to penalty kicks is just wanting to take it and try to step up and hit it well.”

Just over a minute later, the Red Storm netted another goal after the Golden Panthers failed in trying to clear the ball back to Rosenberg. A long ball was sent high and Corcoran scored his second goal of the season by beating Rosenberg to the ball and heading it past him and into the middle of the net.

FIU outshot SJU, 10-8, but the Storm had five shots on goal, while the Golden Panthers were limited to three, and seven corner kicks to FIU’s four.

Senior goalkeeper Guy Hertz made his first start since Sept. 13 and allowed only one goal late in the second half.

FIU pressed in the closing minutes of the game, but the St. John’s defense and Hertz were able to hold off the Golden Panthers.

“I think it was a great weekend,” Masur said. “Beating BC was very, very important. Beating a team like FIU, which was on a major run, so I think that was very important as well.”

The loss to St. John’s marked the first time FIU had lost a match since Sept. 13.

The Red Storm have had two five game winning streaks in 2003 and there would be no better time to start another, as St. John’s gears up for the Big East tournament and NCAA playoffs.

“Everybody has to raise their level come playoff time,” Wingert said. “I think we’re capable of that and if we do raise our level then we should be able to get some wins in the Big East tournament and make a run in the NCAA’s.”

Boston Massacre

Boston College 0

St. John’s 2

Senior Celebration

Florida Int’l 1

St. John’s 3