It is one of the most controversial ways to break a tie in all of sports- what some believe is a glorified skills competition that negates the 110 minutes of soccer played beforehand and decides the outcome with a game of chance.
But a penalty kick shootout decided Thursday night’s women’s soccer match between St. John’s and Rutgers. And subsequently, it decided the fate of the Red Storm in the Big East Tournament as it fell to the Scarlet Knights 4-2 in the shootout.
“Regardless of how much you practice, you can’t simulate the situation you are going to be in,” said Red Storm head coach Ian Stone.
The first 110 minutes of soccer was essentially a back-and-forth battle with each side making its fair share of mistakes, as well as accruing some quality scoring opportunities.
“We knew it was win or go home, basically,” said senior forward Krystle Jalalian. “So we knew we had to come out with a different mentality.”
St. John’s racked up 11 shots in the game and forced Rutgers goalkeeper Erin Guthrie to make four saves. Its highlight scoring chance came in the opening minutes of the second half when freshman Raelynne Lee struck a ball that ricocheted off the crossbar from outside the box.
“I thought we created some good chances,” said Stone. “As we went into the second half and the overtime period, I thought if there was going to be a team that scored it would’ve been us.”
And at times it did look that way. In the 40th minute Erin Bohn knuckled a long, tricky shot that turned Guthrie into a first basemen and forced her to scoop the ball on the short hop.
As the game went on, Jalalian said she was starting to feel a little nervous, but her feelings echoed those of Stone.
“I was thinking ‘just relax,'” she said. Red Storm goalkeeper Jaime Beran shined in the first two periods. In the first, she faced four shots from Rutgers: two hard ones from short range that she made look easy, and two long ones that flirted with the top of the net from outside the box. She recorded saves on two Rutgers’ attempts in the 25th minute alone, and finished the game with five saves and a shutout.
“She’s gotten more confident as the year went on,” said Stone of his senior goalkeeper. “Especially towards the end of season, she’s really stepped it up.”
In the 63rd minute, Rutgers reversed field and caught the Red Storm defenders out of position, leaving forward Caycie Gusman with a breakaway opportunity. But Beran crept up slowly, cutting off Gusman’s angle and left her with one option, a hard shot at Beran’s chest that she caught easily.Stone credits the increase in turnovers and missed passes from his team to the Rutgers defense.
“Rutgers is pretty athletic,” he said.
“They make it difficult. They really defend well.”
The Red Storm failed to repeat what it had done twice in a row coming into the game and score a winner in a golden goal overtime period.
Stone sent Erin Bohn up first in the shootout and she struck a low shot towards the right post. Guthrie dove and deflected it off the post, which sent it across the goal line and off the other post, staying out of the net.
“It is possible to read the shot,” said Stone. “But it certainly isn’t easy to be able to coordinate the thinking and the movement in order to make that save.
“That first save for that keeper [Guthrie] was big time. It put us behind the eight ball. If she hadn’t made that save and we scored our first one, it might’ve been different.”
After Domenique Esposito converted the first opportunity for Rutgers, sophomore Kristine Cunningham was up for the Red Storm. But Guthrie saved her shot and Gina DeMaio scored for Rutgers for the Scarlet Knights’ second opportunity. The Red Storm was down 2-0 and had its back against the wall with Jalalian next to shoot.
“[I knew] it could be my last [game] at Belson [Stadium],” said Jalalian. “So I knew I had to finish.”
She did just that, and so did Lee after her. But goals by Rutgers’ Jenifer Anzivino and finally Rebecca Wise made Sarah McGrath’s upcoming opportunity unnecessary as Rutgers had two more goals than the Storm with only one shooter left.
The Red Storm still have an outside chance at qualifying for the NCAA Tournament. It will find out on Monday whether it is in or out. Either way, Stone remains proud of his team.
“The way I look at it, if that’s going to be their last game,” he said, “they played well.”