HARRISON, N.J. – St. John’s defeated Villanova 2-0 on Friday evening in a BIG EAST men’s soccer championship semifinal at Red Bull Arena to advance to the title game. They will play Connecticut on Sunday, Nov. 13 at noon in the championship final. The two teams played just over 77 minutes of scoreless action before the Red Storm sparked an offensive flurry with two goals in a span of four minutes.
Connecticut defeated Louisville 1-0 earlier in the evening to advance. The Huskies and Red Storm have met once this season, with UConn posting a 2-0 victory at home on Sept. 24. UConn is ranked No. 4/3 nationally, while St. John’s is ranked No. 21/21 (NSCAA/Soccer America).
With 12:53 on the clock, junior midfielder Jack Bennett sent a long ball to senior forward Walter Hines, who fired into an open net to put the Red Storm ahead, 1-0. It was Hines’ team-leading sixth goal of the season.
In the 82nd minute of regulation, Bennett took a corner kick and drove it straight into the crowd in front of the net, where senior midfielder Ido Ligety headed it in to give St. John’s a 2-0 cushion. The assist was Bennett’s sixth of the year- he has had four game-winning goals and five game-winning assists. The goal was Ligety’s third of the season.
Junior midfielder Kyle Soroka created several strong opportunities for Villanova, but was unable to convert. Early in the first half, he found himself alone against a defender and the goalkeeper, but St. John’s back Connor Lade came in and knocked the ball away, forcing the turnover and stifling the opportunity. With less than 16 minutes to play, St. John’s goalkeeper Alex Naples made a save, and Soroka tried to fire in the rebound, but there were two defenders in the goal that bounced it out and Naples jumped on the ball to end the play.
St. John’s, the No. 3 seed in the Red Division, defeated Georgetown 2-1 and West Virginia 2-0 to advance to the semifinals.
“It was a very exciting game,” said St. John’s head coach Dave Masur. “Villanova had a very exciting season and a great run in the postseason. We knew it was going to be a rough game and I’m proud of our guys because they played well.”
Villanova earned the No. 5 seed in the Red Division and won two road games to advance, winning at Notre Dame 1-0 in the first round and at USF 1-0 in the quarterfinals to move on to Red Bull Arena. Villanova posted two upsets to reach the semifinals, earning the program’s first tournament wins, knocking off two ranked opponents (No. 18/19 Notre Dame, the No. 4 seed in the Blue Division and No. 5/7 USF, the No. 1 seed and regular season title winner in the Red Division).
Villanova and St. John’s met once in the regular season, with the Wildcats posting a 3-1 win.
The Red Storm outshot Villanova 18-12 and held a 7-3 advantage in corner kicks. Villanova goalkeeper John Fogarty made four saves, while Naples grabbed three.
“Our team certainly battled hard,” said Villanova head coach Tom Carlin. “In the last 20 minutes, you saw what we were all about. We’re a resilient bunch. St. John’s is a tremendous team and we wish them luck.”