Both the men’s and women’s soccer teams took advantage of a shot in the NCAA Tournament this season. And while both teams fell within hours of each other yesterday to #1 seeds in the tournament, their postseason runs are a point of pride.
The St. John’s women’s soccer squad stepped into unprecedented territory with a berth into the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament, taking the program further than ever before. Their journey into the third round is detailed below; and the men’s run to the second round is after.
St. John’s 1 | Brown 0
The ladies headed to the NCAA tournament as road warriors, entitled to no games at home. Nonetheless, they persisted, handing Brown a home loss to open the tournament. The 1-0 OT win came after 99 minutes of soccer that could have ended with a goal in either net.
Midfielder Ava Collins netted the match’s only goal assisted by Isabelle Aviza after 98:52 of play to send the Johnnies onto the next round. But the goal — after a series of caroms in front of the Brown net ended with Collins’ opportunity — came on the Johnnies’ 6th shot on target all game, breaking a 5-5 tie in the shots on goal category.
G Naya Lipkens’ five save shutout led the Johnnies to victory in the match and gave the team its first triumph over an Ivy League school this season having lost to Harvard and Yale and tying Columbia earlier this year.
St. John’s 2 | Samford 2 (St. John’s wins 3-0 on PKs)
In the round of 32, tying the furthest mark the program has ever reached, St. John’s held their own throughout the match against Samford, who had upset #4-seed Auburn.
A match favoring the Johnnies saw the team take a 2-1 lead into the final 10 minutes of play, before a penalty allowed Samford to push the game into overtime, then PKs. The ladies were led by Nicole Gordon and Shannon Aviza who tallied a goal in the first and second halves respectively and found themselves helped by Fs Jessica Garziano and Zsani Kajan, who collected an assist each in the game.
The Johnnies recorded a 15-7 advantage in shots and 9-2 advantage in shots on goal. The game saw seven saves in total, all favoring Samford as G Naya Lipkens recorded none on the two shots on goal she faced.
A dormant OT period led to a penalty shootout. The ladies converted on two of their first three attempts while Freshman G Megan Groah saved two and watched a third go wide heading into the money shot for the Johnnies. Senior M Michelle Money put home the Johnnies’ 4th PK to lock in a 3-0 PK win and give the ladies a shot at Duke in the Sweet 16.
St. John’s 1 | Duke 7
Duke hosted St. John’s for what would be the final match of the year for the ladies as the team met a Blue Devil team destined for clinical finishing; it was the Red Storm’s 2nd match in three days in Durham, NC.
The Blue Devils cracked the game open early with a goal in the 4th minute and then scored in the 26th and 28th minutes to rip any hope from the Johnnies. A scoreless 20 minutes ensured to end the half at 3-0 in the goal column and 10-0 in the shots column for Duke.
M Maia Cabrera got the Johnnies on the board just 1:45 into the 2nd half, assisted by Jessica Garziano, but the rest of the half mirrored the first. The Blue Devils tallied goals in the 62nd, 69th, 81st, and 82nd minutes to ice the match. The Johnnies only mustered one more shot all game; a chance from Cabrera that missed high. Duke was called for three fouls, while St. John’s was flagged for 16 infractions.
Starting G Naya Lipkens was pulled after 75 minutes for freshman Megan Groah to get minutes at a meaningful match. Lipkens saved six shots and allowed five goals (including one on a PK) while Groah allowed two on zero saves for her time in net.
A 7-1 wash isn’t what the Johnnies dreamed of when they headed to Durham, but the team finished the season out strong as runner-up to the Big East title and a Sweet 16 appearance, setting the stage for future teams to go even further.
Following their painful early exit from the Big East Tournament, the Johnnies found themselves on the receiving end of an invite to the NCAA tournament as hosts for the first round. The Johnnies welcomed Princeton to town on November 18th, playing for the opportunity to take on #1 ranked and tournament favorites Oregon State in Corvallis, Oregon.
St. John’s 1 | Princeton 0
St. John’s took the lead for good against the Princeton Tigers with a goal in the 43rd minute, just 65 seconds before the end of the first half. It was their fifth shot and third on target.
Atila Ashrafi assisted Brandon Knapp, whose efforts have turned heads since the beginning of the season. Knapp tallied his fifth goal of the season in the match, and his goal was the fourth winner he’s netted all year.
Knapp’s tally characterized the match as a whole; the Johnnies held an advantage in shots and shots on goals 12-6 and 4-2 respectively.
G Luka Gavran’s shutout was rather tame as he only had to turn away one shot in each half to maintain his standing. Going into Sunday’s match against Oregon State, Gavran had yet to concede a postseason goal in his collegiate career, having shut out Butler before falling in PKs in the Big East Tournament.
St. John’s 0 | Oregon State 2
In the most important match of the year for the Johnnies, the team found themselves trying to claw back from a deficit after only 10 minutes.
The Beavers strung together passes into the St. John’s zone that resulted in a shot saved by Luka Gavran and deflected to the feet of an OSU F Mouhameth Thiam, who put the ball home.
The Johnnies bounced back. The Red Storm held the momentum for a great portion of the game, with shots ringing off the woodwork and headers missing the net by inches, but the Johnnies got nothing in the net to end the first half.
As the second half began, the match seemed to reset and provided little action until the 71st minute when the Beavers threatened with an insurance goal turned away by Luka Gavran. On the counter-attack, a Brandon Knapp header was mere inches over the bar just minutes later.
After numerous failed attempts at an equalizer, the Beavers netted the brace they so desperately sought in the 85th minute with a goal from Javier Armas. Armas’ goal put the game away for the Beavers as the favorites stay home and await the next team to get between them and a title.