Despite the scoreless outcome in Sunday’s St. John’s women’s soccer game, the team could still feel like it came out the victor.
As one of the youngest teams in the Big East with 15 freshmen, St. John’s stayed with No. 6/7-ranked West Virginia through 90 minutes and two overtime periods.
Currently undefeated, West Virginia has proven to be a true powerhouse this season, averaging 37 shots and five goals per game. However, senior forward Natasha Lee did not see playing a nationally ranked team as any more a challenge than any other game.
“We didn’t come in thinking we were underdogs,” Lee said. “We know we can play with these teams [and] it doesn’t matter to us that they’re number six in the country. We need to come out and play our hardest.”
Playing in their third game in only five days, their most recent, a 1-1 tie at Pittsburgh, St. John’s came out strong in the first half, playing feisty and frustrating West Virginia’s normally dominant offense.
The Red Storm continued their strong play in the second half, banging around an undersized Mountaineers team and keeping shots to the outside. Lee had a particularly good chance in the 61st minute, running the length of the field on a break but being cut down out of breath near the edge of the 18-yard box by a defender.
The Red Storm is off to a strong start this season with a 5-1-3 record after the 0-0 draw with West Virginia, and are just one victory shy of last season’s win total. But despite the newfound youth in this year’s team, coach Ian Stone attributes the early success to a deep bench.
“A big factor is our depth,” Stone said. “Last year we were unable to rotate too many players in and off the bench, but this season we’re not missing a beat and the players are doing a great job off the bench.”
St. John’s will look to Sunday’s moral victory as a springboard for the rest of the season, where they will try to crack their way into the NCAA tournament.
“We need to stay focused,” Lee said. “We’re a good team and we’re willing to work hard for each and every person.”
But perhaps the greatest attributution to this season’s success is the leadership of veterans. While there are only two seniors on the team, Stone said their guidance is integral.
“The returning players have done a phenomenal job of showing the new players how the program works,” he said. “They motivate them to continue to work hard.”