St. John’s is no stranger to winning a game when playing a man down √¢?” even if it is in dramatic fashion.
Against Creighton in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament on Dec. 7, 2003, the Red Storm’s Chris Leidner was sent off with a red card early in the first half and the Blue Jays scored twice in the beginning of the second to take a commanding lead. But later St. John’s got two goals in a minute span, and a Simone Salinno score in the 73rd minute sealed a victory to advance the team to the Final Four.
Still, coach Dave Masur was not thinking about that dramatic win when graduate student Sebastian Alvarado-Ralph was sent off with a red with 35 seconds left in the first half of Saturday’s Big East Tournament quarterfinal against Notre Dame at Belson Stadium.
“The past is not always a great predictor of the future,” Masur said. “You gotta make your future.”
Well, St. John’s future will be in Storrs, Conn., Friday night when they play Connecticut in the Big East semifinals.
The Red Storm defeated the Fighting Irish, 1-0, despite playing the last 45 minutes with only 10 players.
St. John’s (9-4-5, 7-2-3) kept the pressure on Notre Dame (10-7-3, 6-5-1) in the second half, despite being a man down, culminating in freshman Garry Lewis’s 78th minute header goal.
“You have that will,” Lewis said. “You’re kind of mad about your situation. You’re facing adversity and when you start to fight back, you get confidence. It’s like you’re playing with three extra men.”
Senior Jeff Carroll lofted a free kick into the box from 30 yards out, senior Billy Hole flicked it in Lewis’s direction and the freshman found the back of the net from 5 yards away.
“[Hole] got his neck and shoulder on it and flicked it a little bit,” Lewis said, “and I just ran onto it, saw the opportunity. I was lucky it came my way.”
Added graduate student Matt Groenwald, who left the game with an injury in the first half and returned in the second: “It was intense joy for about 30 seconds to a minute (after the goal).”
The red card came with 35 seconds left in the first half. Alvarado-Ralph went up with a header to win a ball in the midfield. In what looked like incidental contact, the midfielder elbowed Notre Dame’s Ben Crouse in the head. It was the first card issued in the match.
“I was kind of mad at that,” Lewis said. “[The referee] could have gave him a yellow card. It changes the game.”
But it didn’t change the game enough for the Red Storm, which had not been playing well, to lose on its home turf.
St. John’s had only one win (1-3-2) in its last six games coming in and a loss would have seriously hurt its chances of hosting a NCAA Tournament game.
“Our spirits had been kind of low at the end of the season,” Lewis said. “We hadn’t been doing as well as we thought we (could).”