Next step: Gold

Former St. John’s standout Laura Burlacu is one of 10 Red Storm alumni or current players on the New York City women’s open soccer team at the Empire State Games this year. Photo by Pete Borriello
By Marc Raimondi

For 28 years, the New York City women’s open soccer team was completely shut out at the Empire State Games. The squad didn’t win a single medal in almost three decades.

Then two summers ago, St. John’s women’s soccer coach Ian Stone took over. In his first year, NYC won a bronze medal and last year Stone’s team won silver. He’s not quite ready to proclaim this as the year the city brings back gold, though. There have been some injury problems and Stone isn’t sure what to expect when his team starts playing Thursday at SUNY Binghamton.

“We should be OK,” he said. “I think when we actually get there, we’ll be OK. I would like to get a gold this year, but I’m not sure yet.”

The secret to the team’s success in Stone’s tenure has been familiarity. Most of the players on his teams either play for him or used to play for him at St. John’s and this year is no different. Former players Pristina Alford, Laura Burlacu, Joanna Diminich, Natasha Lee and Jane Vongvorachoti dot the roster, as do current players Courtney Lane, Jackie James, Anna Torregiano, Tatiana Duggan and Jessica Simonetti.

“My idea behind it is to keep the St. John’s alumni together,” Stone said.

But he has other reasons as well. When he learned the New York City women’s open soccer team had not produced a medal in almost 30 years, he was flabbergasted.

“One of the main reasons for me to do it was that New York City wasn’t represented that well,” said Stone, who will be entering his 16th season at St. John’s. “I see a lot of good players in the five boroughs who weren’t playing. It’s an opportunity for me to give back a little.”

Of course, it can’t hurt recruiting either. While up at the Empire State Games, Stone has the chance to watch the women’s scholastic players, who are still in high school, while other college coaches wouldn’t be able to do so.

“I’m not some Mother Theresa figure,” he said.

But for the New York City women’s open soccer team, he has been somewhat of a saint.

Reach Associate Sports Editor Marc Raimondi by e-mail at mraimondi@timesledger.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 130.

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