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Dancing on the pitch: men's, women's teams looking for NCAA Tournament success

Norman Rose

St. John's men's and women's soccer teams are both in the NCAA Tournament this week. For the women's side, it is their first-ever berth to the tourney behind a pair of spectacular newcomers. The men sweated out the selection show but a strong schedule helped them pick up one of the last at-large bids to the NCAA Tournament.

Women's soccer moves on to Round Two

The Red Storm women earned their first NCAA Tournament victory, going on the road to upset Central Florida in a 3-1 win in Orlando to improve to 12-5-3 on the season. Central Florida started the scoring in the 18th minute, but St. John's responded with a goal by freshman Miranda Haraughty from Glen Falls, NY, in the 19th minute - and then pressured the Golden Knights into an own goal in the 22nd.

Newcomer of the year and Big East Offensive Player of the Year Rachel Daly capped the scoring with her 23rd goal of the season in the second half. Freshman goalkeeper Diana Poulin maintained the lead, saving eight shots on goal. St. John's generated three shots to UCF's 26.

Next for Ian Stone's women's side is a trip to Durham, NC, for a second round match against the 14-8-0 Arkansas Razorbacks at 4:00 PM on Friday, Nov. 22nd, played at Duke University. The Razorbacks are led by Ashleigh Ellenwood's 13 goals on the season; senior Evan Palmer has 5 goals, while Texan juniors Jeriann Okoro and Tyler Allen have combined for 15 assists on the season.

Men's soccer earns a trip to the tournament

While Marquette earned the Big East's automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament, St. John's missed the Big East Tourney, finishing seventh in the Big East at 3-4-2 in conference, 10-6-2 overall. Still, the team waited and trained, knowing that they crafted a strong schedule. Their hope was rewarded on Tuesday with a berth to the tourney, their fifth in the last six seasons.

Per Big Apple Soccer, head coach Dr. Dave Masur mused on their path to the NCAA Tournament:

...we knew we played a very good schedule. We had some very good wins against the top 20. We were like 3-1-1 against the top 20. So we had a very good strength of schedule, a very good non-conference RPI. Some of our losses were in overtime, so I thought we had a pretty good record to push us into the tournament.

The Red Storm hope for their first NCAA Tournament wins since 2008, and will have to earn it on the road against the 14-4-1 Delaware Blue Hens of the Colonial Athletic Conference this Thursday evening at 7:00 PM. If St. John's can knock off Delaware on their campus, they will face a Sunday, Nov. 24 rematch against the University of Virginia, who topped the Red Storm in the second game of the season, 2-0, at Virginia.

The Blue Hens lost in a penalty-kick shootout to Drexel in their conference tournament. Delaware is led by the Colonial Athletic Association's rookie of the year in Spanish forward Guillermo Delgado. He scored 13 goals on the season; three other players scored five goals apiece. The Blue Hens have recorded six shutouts this season.

St. John's has Big East first-teamers Tim Parker (defense) and second-teamers Rafael Diaz (goalkeeper), Sean Sepe (forward; leads the team in goals with six), and James Mulligan (midfield) to pace them, and recorded nine shutouts.