By Troy Mauriello
With the NCAA soccer season just over a month old, the St. John’s men’s and women’s soccer teams look to build momentum heading into Big East play.
Both teams managed to do just that, getting out to hot starts to kick things off. The Red Storm women’s team went undefeated through its first four games and currently holds a 4-2-1 record. The men had an undefeated preseason and scored a 3-0 road win over Drexel to begin the year. The Red Storm men are currently 2-2-1.
In the opener at Drexel, midfielder Harry Cooksley, a unanimous Preseason All-Big East selection, delivered in his first action of the season. Cooksley scored a goal and assisted on scores from midfielders Alistai Johnston and Matt Forster as St. John’s cruised to a 3-0 shutout win.
After a road loss to Loyola Maryland, the Johnnies returned to Belson Stadium for their home opener in Queens. Facing off with defending Atlantic 10 champion Fordham, St. John’s was edged 1-0 in a defensive struggle. Goalkeeper Andrew Withers was exceptional between the pipes with five saves, but it wasn’t enough for the Red Storm.
Following a tie against local rival Hofstra, the third home game was the charm for the Red Storm, as they knocked off Temple on Sept. 9 in the third of four straight games in Queens.
St. John’s used a barrage of timely scoring to capture the win, with a pair of goals late in regulation. Again it was Johnston and Forster who tallied goals for the Red Storm, with Johnston knocking in a penalty kick in the 70th minute and Forster connecting on a second goal just four minutes later.
While Johnston and Forster received recognition for the goals, St. John’s head coach Dave Masur pointed out how pleased he was with his team’s effort as a whole after the game.
“Alistair [Johnston] was fantastic, as were Matt [Forster] and Rafael Bustamante,” Masur told RedSt
The win evened the Red Storm’s record at 2-2-1 this season as conference play sits just days away. Last season, St. John’s struggled to a 2-5-2 record in the competitive Big East.
On the women’s side, the Red Storm have continued to uphold a winning tradition established by veteran head coach Ian Stone this season. The Johnnies have won four of their first seven games to open the season. Despite having lost two of their last three, they still appear poised to make some noise heading into conference play.
St. John’s opened its season with three straight wins over Marist, Fairfield and Connecticut, outscoring their opponents 5-1 during the win streak. Stone alternated freshmen in goal, going with redshirt freshman Jordan Camp in wins over Marist and Connecticut, while using true freshman Antonia Tammaro in the Red Storm’s victory over Fairfield.
With each freshman posting a shutout along the way on the defensive end, St. John’s was also potent on offense thanks to junior Christina Bellero. A midfielder from Melville, Bellero knocked in three of the Red Storm’s five goals during their win streak to open the season.
“She’s almost impossible to defend when she’s in that mood because it’s not just speed. It’s skill, agility and cutting past defenders,” Stone said about Bellero following her performance against Marist. “We just had to keep giving the ball to her because she was on fire tonight.”
Since their hot start, the Johnnies have cooled off a bit, losing a double-overtime heartbreaker against Harvard and falling 2-1 at home against Lehigh, with a victory over Loyola Maryland sandwiched in between the losses.
The Red Storm will begin Big East play with a road tilt in Washington D.C. against Georgetown Sept. 24. They’ll look to continue their previous success in conference play of season’s past, including a 2016 season that saw them go 5-2-2 in the Big East with four straight wins to round out the regular season.