Future Johnnies look to lead the way

Another year begins for St. John’s soccer, but the goal is always the same. And in recent years, the results have always been there. The team has qualified for the NCAA tournament 15 years running and last season captured the Big East title. With the departure of captain Georgios
Spanos, along with fellow graduates Danny Dragoi, Billy Hole, and Patrik Engstrom, the Red Storm will look to new additions to pick up the slack.

In their last exhibition match before regular-season play, St. John’s drew their match against Hartwick 1-1. Ryan Soroka, last year’s freshman sensation and goal-scoring leader, jumped right back into the action, grabbing the rebound off Hartwick goalkeeper Joe Gibson and passing to
newcomer Omar Alfonso. The freshman striker put one in the net in the 18th minute to give the Johnnies the initial lead. Hartwick evened up in the 37th minute, however, when a John Paul Boyle shot got past Red Storm keeper Neal Kitson. Despite four chances from the corner in the second half, St. John’s was unable to score again.

Though the final result was not ideal, there were encouraging signs. Along with Alfonso, the Red Storm has brought in midfielders Anthony Han, Ale Ivo, Sverre Gundhus, defenders Mackenzie Ward and Anthony Vazquez (who has played club level soccer with the New York Red Bulls) and goalkeeper Matt Walker.

“We’re excited about the group we have coming in,” coach Dave Masur told RedStormSports.com. “We’re hopeful that they’ll make a smooth
transition to top level Big East soccer.”

These fresh faces, along with returning stars such as Soroka (nine goals, 26 points last season), Tadeu Terra (11 points), and Jeff Stepan (10 points) give this year’s team great expectations. Perhaps the returnee with the greatest impact, though, will be senior goalkeeper Jason Landers. The 6’7” behemoth was named a pre-season All- American by College Soccer News. Last season, Landers recorded 13 shutouts and led St. John’s in posting record numbers of scoreless matches and scoreless minutes. His save percentage (.826) ranked him 24th nationally. Landers was also selected as the pre-season Big East Goalkeeper of the Year for the second consecutive year.

Landers is not the only one garnering attention, though. St. John’s was selected by the coaches of the Big East conference to be winners of their Red Division. They were ranked 10th in the nation in pre-season polls by Soccer America, 13th by Top Drawer Soccer, and 17th in a NSCAA poll. With All-Big East selection Soroka up front and Landers guarding the net, as well as the new additions shoring up the back end of the field, the Red Storm will look for its 16th consecutive NCAA appearance as well as continued Big East success.