Defense wins games

It was decisive defense that, yet again, allowed the St. John’s women’s soccer team to garner a victory on Sunday. This win came over Quinnipiac (2-2) in the second round of the New York City Nike Classic. The Red Storm defeated the Bobcats 1-0 at Belson Stadium and finished second in the tournament.

A Friday tie with Columbia University cost the Storm the tournament crown.

Head coach Stone said his teams second place finish was bittersweet. “But Friday’s tough match proved that we could play with the best of them,” Stone said.

Sunday’s matchup against the Bobcats was decided early when Duke transfer C.J. Ludemann kicked a thirty-yard high sailing ball between the goalposts in the 18th minute. The goal was the junior’s first in a Red Storm uniform and the only one of the game.

“We needed to break through and win,” Ludemann said. “It felt good, hopefully it’s the first of many.” Ludemann was assisted on her goal by forward Sarah McGrath, her second of the season.

For much of the game, the Red Storm defense had to contain Quinnipiac’s stellar freshman Furtuna Velaj. Velaj accounted for four aggressive shots in the first half, and would finish with a game-high seven. Velaj earned tournament honors for her impressive play, but could not help put her team past the Johnnies.

“We’ve made a commitment. All eleven players are going to defend,” Stone said. “Our midfielders are doing very good, and our goalkeeper keeps making good saves.”

Anchoring the defense all day was junior midfielder Tara Mendoza, who saved a near goal in the 30th minute. Adding another shutout victory in goal was the freshman Kristin Russell. Russell played all 90 minutes and finished with five saves. Her counterpart, Quinnipiac’s Jillian Kelley, finished with seven.
Russell has only allowed one goal all season in her fill-in role for the injured senior Rebecca Capinera.

“Kristin is a phenomenal athlete, which helps,” Stone said. “She is mature beyond her years and brings a lot of confidence, which allows her to step up on the big stage.” Russell’s play has led the Red Storm to a record of 4-1-1.

Seton Hall was the tournament champion with a 2-0 record during the weekend. St. John’s landed three players on the All-Tournament team, all of which were defenders: Nicole Doran, Vaila Barsley and Courtney Curby.

“Unfortunately we didn’t finish in first,” Ludemann said, “but we will find a way to improve before Big East conference games.”

The Red Storm will have to keep up their persistent play as they head into a stretch of Big East competition. Syracuse will look to avenge their 1-0 loss last season to the Storm at Belson. The Orange will play host to the Storm this Friday.