The story remained the same for the St. John’s women’s soccer team during their 2009 season.
They couldn’t find the back of the net on offense and the defense of sophomore goalkeeper Kristin Russell and seniors Tara Mendoza, Nicole Doran, Vaila Barsley, and Courtney Lane wouldn’t let any opposing teams find the back of the net.
The Red Storm reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history and nearly defeated ACC powerhouse Virginia in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament at Penn State.
The Red Storm fell 3-1 to the Cavaliers on penalty kicks after scoreless regulation and overtime periods.
The loss to Virginia marks the end to one of the most successful seasons in the program’s history and the college careers of the 15 Red Storm seniors who have built the program.
The senior class finished with an all-time record of 43-21-17.
“I am really happy that this phenomenal senior class got the opportunity to make program history and play in the NCAA Tournament,” said Stone.
“I think we defended really well and left everything out on the field,” Stone said. “We played against an outstanding team and our defended really well. I’m tremendously proud of my girls.”
The Red Storm played a hard-fought game and survived a fury of shots from the talented Virginia offense. The Red Storm was out shot 39-6 for the game. Russell once again was a force in the net, stonewalling the Cavalier onslaught and making 10 saves on the game. With the shutout, St. John’s tied the single season program record, with 10.
“Virginia’s offense was very fast and attacked us well,” Mendoza said. ” As a team, from their defense to forwards, they were a very strong and technical team.”
The Cavaliers gave the Red Storm little opportunities on net. Sophomore Jen Leaverton and senior Kelly McConnell each had near-misses on net in the first half.
In overtime, senior Katie Haas nearly won the game when she had a one-on-one with Virginia’s Chantel Jones, but Jones made the diving save to help the Cavaliers reach penalty kicks.
“They possessed the ball really well,” Said Stone. “We were forced to defend a lot. There were occasions when we had great situations, but were unable to finish.”
McConnell and junior Raelynne Lee each had a team high of two shots, while Haas and Leaverton each added a shot.
For Mendoza, a four-year starter, this season has been a result of all of the hard work that they have put in for the past four years.
“We had a great start to the season and went undefeated until Princeton and we made it to this point. We learned from every loss,” she said. “It means a lot to us, from the freshmen to the seniors to the coaching staff. I feel privileged to be on this team.”
The team is ranked No. 15 in the nation with a save percentage of .870 and No. 19 with a goals against average of .628. Russell is ranked 20th in the nation with a .866 save percentage. They were also the main reason to why Ian Stone’s team had one of the most memorable and successful seasons in the program’s history.
“There were so many firsts, the NCAA tournament, getting as far as we did in the Big East,” Said Stone. “There have been so many great memories from the girls.”