Freshman Ryan Soroka leads a 2006 St. John’s recruiting class that College Soccer News ranked as 18th-best in the nation. Not a bad way to rebuild a team that was battered with player losses.

The Red Storm lost five key players over the offseason, including MLS draftees Matt Groenwald, Andre Schmid and Jeff Carroll, and transfers Tony Beltran and Garry Lewis.

“We have a young and inexperienced team,” said coach Dave Masur. “But we’re going to have to find ways.”

So far this year, they have shown that they have the ability to find those ways. Soroka has made an immediate impact, already having scored his first two goals in the four matches so far this year.

“He’s been great,” Masur said of Soroka. “He’s done well up front.”

Soroka said that this is what he expected when coming to St. John’s from his home in Florida.

“I was expecting to come here, do well, work my butt off and do what I can with my situation,” he said.

“One of the big things is transforming people from their individual base to a team mentality,” said Masur.

Soroka agrees, saying “I’m just trying to be busy, doing what I can to help the team.”

Although St. John’s is counting heavily on Soroka and other newcomers, they still have a need for a veteran presence.
Masur and the Red Storm are counting on the backline for experience and leadership. The biggest key to the defense is team captain Georgios Spanos.

The senior nearly won the national championship in his freshman year but fell just short as St. John’s lost to Indiana in the finals.

After that taste of success, Spanos wants to get back there and he believes this year’s team might be the one that finally gets him back to the NCAA Championship.

“We don’t have any rebuilding years. We want to win a championship every year,” said Spanos.

He added: “To tell you the truth, I think we can go all the way but it will take a lot. It’s going to be a challenge but if we execute and believe in our game plan we’ll have a really good season in the Big East.”

In his final year, he is concentrated on winning what he came so close to in his first year, but he also knows to take it game by game and savor each moment.

“Sure, it’s a bust if I don’t win a championship,” he admitted. “But, if you ask me how much I’ve learned and experienced here, it’s unbelievable.

“So, I want to enjoy it and be a leader-not only by communication but by example.”

Along with pre-season Big East goalkeeper of the year, Jason Landers, he hopes to be a pillar of stability on defense to keep the young Johnnies grounded.

“Landers has played very well in the goal,” Masur said. “He’s made some key saves.”

“Defense is everything. I think you’re going to see a lot of one-goal games,” Landers said. “There’s not too many blowouts in the Big East.”

He added: “Defense wins championships. If we get one goal, we’ve got a good chance.”

Landers has started all four games, playing in 315 minutes and making 12 saves at a .857 percentage.

The team is hoping that this combination of a veteran defense and an energized and youthful group of forwards is the key to success.

“The sky’s the limit for us,” Landers said. “We just have to keep focus and we can go pretty far.”