Bizarre goal lifts Storm to Sweet 16

Matt Groenwald didn’t think he should be the only one associated with his bizarre game-winning goal Tuesday night against Dartmouth.

“I don’t know if you could really give me credit for it,” Groenwald said. “I think credit goes to everyone on the team.”

Rightfully so.

In the 57th minute of the second-round NCAA Tournament game, Patrik Engstrom tossed a throw-in toward the box. The ball was kept alive in front of the net by Sebastian Alvarado-Ralph and Andre Schmid before finding the left foot of Groenwald 6 yards out. The touch got away from the graduate student, Dartmouth’s Peter Savidis tried to clear the ball and Groenwald looked to make a play on it. Savidis’ kick hit Groenwald in the back and deflected into the far corner of the net.

The score, Groenwald’s seventh of the season, gave the Red Storm a 1-0 victory over the Big Green and a trip to the Sweet 16 on a freezing cold and extremely windy night at Belson Stadium.

“I think in this kind of game with the wind blowing that way it is, sometimes it’s a freak goal,” said St. John’s coach Dave Masur of a victory in which winds reached upwards of 40 miles per hour and advances his team to their 10th straight Sweet 16 appearance.

Dartmouth coach Jeff Cook added, “We were gambling a little bit hoping that maybe this would die down, but maybe tomorrow I guess.”

The difficult weather conditions may not have been a factor if Dartmouth (10-3-5), the Ivy League champions felt it had the facilities to host an NCAA Tournament game.

“In terms of a student athlete perspective we didn’t think it was a realistic bid because we are playing in a temporary facility,” said Cook, whose team has played it home games on its practice field.

The Big Green’s first trip to Belson Stadium, a place where St. John’s is 27-3-7 since it opened in 2002, was not a pleasant one for reasons other then the loss. St. John’s (11-5-5) limited them to just four total shots and just one on goal, forcing Red Storm sophomore goalie Jason Landers to have to make just one save.

“I really didn’t have to do too much, I’m happy about that, a credit to my defense,” said Landers whose 11th shutout ties him for second on the single-season list.

His lone save came during a scoreless first half in which the teams played to a stalemate and combined for just five shots. The lone quality scoring chance for Dartmouth, who were playing without talented senior midfielder P. J. Scheufele, came in the 17th minute on a bicycle kick by Scott Darci on the far side that Landers saved near the post.

Dartmouth goalie Rowan Anders could not stop the deflection off Groenwald. In order to have seen what happened on quick goal you could not take your eyes of the ball or Groenwald.

“Matt Groenwald is a legitimate Hermann Trophy candidate,” Cook said. “You can never relax with him around on the field.”

Another Ivy League team, Brown, if they had beaten Maryland, would have had to worry about the Hermann Award semifinalist. But Groenwald will be happy to take a trip to play the Terrapins, who beat St. John’s 1-0 in the Elite Eight a year ago.

“I think if you ask any athlete, they would want to play the team that ended their season the year before and Maryland ended our season the year before,” he said. “We had a chance to go to a second straight Final Four and I know that hasn’t left anyone’s mind on the team.”