Stormin’ on

November 9, 2008

Saturday night’s Big East Tournament quarterfinal needed overtime to decide if St. John’s or Providence would advance to the semis in Tampa. But after 90 minutes of scoreless soccer, Red Storm midfielder Tadeu Terra didn’t want to spend much time in sudden death at all.

In just the second minute of the first extra period, Terra collected a pass from Walter Hines in the Friars’ box and was left alone with the goalkeeper. Terra sent a low shot past Providence’s Tim Murray and sent his team toward warmer weather next Friday. After the sophomore scored his first-career game-winner, he found himself at the bottom of a Red Storm mosh pit.

“It’s very special, my first game-winning goal,” Terra said after the 1-0 win at Belson Stadium. “But we didn’t play a perfect game.”

Despite the euphoria of celebrating a game-ending shot, Terra focused on why his team has to improve as they seek their second Big East crown in three years. Providence outshot St. John’s 7-6 in the second half and forced Storm goalie Neal Kitson to make three saves, one of which was a game-changing dive to deny the Friars of a 1-0 lead late in the second half.

Terra, who was playing around “80 percent” after suffering a leg injury in Monday’s Rutgers game, knows this kind of pressure is only going to increase as they advance through the tournament.

“All the teams in the tournament, they keep you ready,” Terra said. “The intensity is going to go up. I don’t think we had the intensity that we needed for a game of this magnitude.”

Speaking of intensity, Kitson seemed to be in the middle of it all night. Fans at Belson Stadium were forced to hold their breath numerous times as Providence threatened the Storm net. And time after time, Kitson and St. John’s tightfisted defense were up for the challenge.

“There’s something about knowing if you give up a goal, you lose,” said Kitson, who now has 13 shutouts on the year, one shy of the St. John’s single-season record. “With all these fans here cheering us on, it’s just unreal.”

St. John’s head coach Dave Masur said the game was one of multiple momentum changes. The difference, he said, was Terra and Nelson Becerra hooking up with one-touch passes on the attack toward the end of the game.

“It was frustrating for us up until the 60th minute, then after that I thought we did play well,” the 18th-year head coach said. “That momentum came through. And our bench saved the day again.”

In the first half, St. John’s struggled in the midfield battle with poor passes and lack of possession. Masur credited senior captain Rory Quinn and Pablo Punyed, who both did not start Saturday, for turning the tables in the middle of the field.

Both teams had plenty of chances to avoid overtime. All three of Becerra’s shots were in the first half, including one that sent Murray to his left to make the save. Terra also took a brilliant free kick deep in their offensive zone and found the head of Storm defender Joel Gustafsson, whose shot was blocked.

Providence had four dangerous chances in St. John’s box, all of which resulted in a save or shot off target.

With the win, Kitson and the Red Storm improve to 9-0-0 at Belson Stadium this season. Kitson acknowledged – and Terra and Masur agreed – there is something about that elevated atmosphere above the parking garage at St. John’s University.

“It puts fear into other teams knowing they’re coming to Belson Stadium,” Kitson said. “The fans support us and this place is consistently packed with the Redzone and everyone behind us. We feed off that energy. It’s electric up here.”

No. 3 St. John’s (15-1-3) will take on DePaul this Friday after the Blue Demons downed second-seeded Connecticut, 1-0. The Red Storm played DePaul to a 0-0 draw on Oct. 25.