Storm start postseason with regular-season crown

There was only one thing the head coach of the St. John’s men’s soccer team could say after celebrating a Big East regular season championship last Friday.

“And we have more to go,” Dave Masur said.

But it will be an entirely different atmosphere when the third-ranked Red Storm trot around Belson Stadium before pregame introductions for Saturday’s second-round Big East Tournament game. Leave it to the 18th-year head coach to know what connotations come with playoff soccer.

“The next stage is always more intense and more pressure oriented,” Masur said.

Here is a breakdown of St. John’s potential path to its second Big East Tournament crown in the last three years.

Familiar Foes
Out of the 11 other teams in the tournament, the Storm have faced eight of them this season. Six of those games were wins or draws by way of shutout and the only loss of the season came against the Louisville, who St. John’s can only meet in the final on Nov. 6.

The Johnnies, who earned a first-round bye, will wait on the winner of today’s game between Villanova and Providence – two shutout wins for St. John’s this year.

If the Friars advance, the Storm will have to contend with forward Tim Ritter, who has had a strong offensive season with 12 points (4 goals, 4 assists).

With one win, St. John’s advances to the semifinals and may face Connecticut, DePaul or Pittsburgh. The Huskies have the first-round bye and have their scoring contingent healthy again, something St. John’s did not have to deal with in their 3-1 victory over UConn on Sept. 26.

“The next game against each opponent is going to be harder than the last,” Masur said. “They are all good defensively and confident. We have to learn what the strengths of our opponents are, the type of passion and intensity they’re going to come out with, and we have to match that with our passion and intensity.”
The other No. 1 seed, Notre Dame, has been dominant in the conference since a scoreless draw with the Storm on Sept. 19, posting a 7-2-2 Big East record and outscoring all opponents 38-19. They are led by Bright Dike’s 10 goals and five assists.

Belson Beckoning
To get the postseason rolling, St. John’s will host its second round game at Belson Stadium. The Storm are a perfect 8-0-0 on their home turf this season. Masur says, once again, that the playoffs are a whole different game, but the drive to defend their home and entertain their fans should provide an extra push in Saturday game.

Perfect Penalties
Since playoff games cannot end in ties, if the score is even at the end of two overtime periods, penalty kicks will decide the winner. From the proceedings this season, the Red Storm look to have an advantage if the game comes down to the penalty spot.

Masur has said that there are multiple candidates worthy of taking a PK. Nelson Becerra and Tadeu Terra are the favorites. St. John’s is 3-3 in penalties this season, however, Neal Kitson has not had an opportunity to face an opponent’s penalty.