St. John's, UConn Battle Ends Scoreless
STORRS, CT -- One of collegiate soccer's most hotly-contested rivalries and a matchup between two of the elite programs in the nation did not disappoint on Friday evening, as No. 8 St. John's (4-1-2, 2-0-1 BIG EAST) battled No. 12 Connecticut (4-2-1, 0-2-1 BIG EAST) to a scoreless tie. The fiercely-contested match continued late into the night, but neither squad gained a distinct advantage before the final horn at the UConn's Joseph J. Morrone Stadium.
A raucous crowd of 5,271 was on hand to witness the 110-minute stalemate, one in which Red Storm goalkeeper Jason Landers (Lower Gynedd, PA) performed brilliantly with five saves during a contest in which the Red Storm seemed to grow stronger as time went on.
The game was also broadcast live across the nation, as one of eight matchups airing during the 2005 season as part of the FOX Soccer Channel's Collegiate Game of the Week package.
"I thought we played much better in the second half and overtime periods," said St. John's head coach Dr. Dave Masur. "I thought we became faster, stronger and much more alert. I am proud of the way we settled in as the game went on."
St. John's, which was held without a shot in the first half, went on to post a combined 9-3 shot advantage in the overtime periods.
Forward Sebastian Alvarado-Ralph (Gothenburg, Sweden) led the charge for the Red Storm in the extra sessions, nearly putting the game away less than a minute into double- overtime. He collected a pass on a breakaway and just missed sealing the victory, blasting a shot off the left post. Later, Alvarado-Ralph fired a rocket wide right, and a shot off a corner kick by sophomore Ben Shuleva (Dublin, OH) was blocked by the UConn defense.
Both teams had one legitimate opportunity to end the contest in the first overtime period. St. John's junior Georgios Spanos (West Islip, NY) saw a shot attempt sail high over the crossbar, while Red Storm sophomore keeper Landers saved an attempt by UConn's O'Brian White.
The determination and hustle of the Red Storm, especially in the last 65 minutes of action, was personified in St. John's Hermann Trophy candidate Matt Groenwald (Mt. Prospect, Ill.). Groenwald logged a spirited effort in 110 minutes of game action after breaking his nose at practice earlier in the day after a collision with another player. The Red Storm's stalwart-hearted captain showed no ill effects in the contest.
"There was no way I was not playing at UConn," said Groenwald when asked if he considered missing the contest.
St. John's determined second-half effort resulted in several opportunities on the offensive end. One came in the 67th minute when Groenwald took an upfield pass and ripped it toward the right side of the net. UConn goalkeeper Adam Schuerman was there, however, to redirect the rocket out of bounds.
Eight minutes later, the Red Storm freshman Tony Beltran (Claremont, CA) fired a shot attempt, this time deflected out of play by a Husky defender, and Shuerman was forced to save another Beltran shot in the moments that followed. In all, persistent play earned St. John's four corner kicks in the second stanza, but an equally tough defensive effort by the Huskies was able to neutralize each attempt.
The Huskies nearly staked a lead during a flurry of activity in the 81st minute. UConn's Julius James connected for a dangerous-looking header following a free kick, but sophomore Sam Matthews (Auckland, New Zealand) was able to boot it away. Connecticut's White and Moshe Shalchon managed two more UConn attempts in the final minute of regulation, but neither found the back of the net.
Play was even in the first half, as most of the action was played in the midfield. UConn tallied three shots on goal, but each Husky attempt was handled easily by Landers.
St. John's aggressive on-ball pressure and intercepting defense led to some runs at the goal in the first half, but the Red Storm seemed just one touch away from several offensive opportunities.
St. John's, ranked among the top eight teams in the nation by three collegiate soccer polls this week, continues its BIG EAST road trip on Sunday when the Red Storm takes on the Providence Friars. Kick off at the Friars' Glay Field is set for 2 p.m.
-- Courtesy St. John's