April 12, 2012
Queens, N.Y. -
As No. 20 St. John’s (6-4, 2-2) gets deeper into its schedule, the stakes continue to get higher as a trip down to No. 15 Villanova (7-4, 3-0) will have major implications on the upcoming BIG EAST Tournament. The Red Storm wraps up its seven game road swing with the 4 p.m. faceoff at Villanova Stadium.
The Red Storm looks to even up the all-time series as St. John’s comes in trailing 6-7 in the thirteen matchups. The Wildcats have taken both meetings since the formation of the BIG EAST lacrosse conference by two goals each time.
St. John’s enters the game ranked No. 20 in the Nike/Inside Lacrosse Media Poll and is receiving votes in the USILA Coaches’ Poll. It is the first national ranking for St. John’s since being ranked No. 18 on March 16, 2009.
The last time the two teams met the Red Storm carried a 7-4 lead into halftime but four unanswered goals in the fourth quarter fueled an 11-9 Wildcats victory. Keith Switzer led the way for St. John’s with a career-high four goals and Kieran McArdle dished out four assists on his way to a five point day. Villanova’s Jack Rice had three goals on just four shots and Michael Vigilante scored two goals including the game-winner.
Villanova is coming off an impressive week that featured two conference victories and 29 Wildcat goals. It began with a 15-7 triumph Wednesday night over Georgetown and ended on Saturday with a 14-9 road victory over Rutgers. The Wildcats got off to fast starts in both games leading the Hoyas 6-3 and the Scarlet Knights 11-2 after each first half. Sophomore John LoCascio was tabbed as BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Week for his 11 groundballs and five caused turnovers in the two contests.
LAST TIME OUT
St. John’s will look to knock off a top-20 opponent for the second week in a row after notching a dramatic victory over then-No. 20 Georgetown 13-12 in overtime last Saturday.
A team that’s suffered through the frustration of numerous close call upsets, the Red Storm flipped the script in dramatic fashion against the Hoyas. Trailing 12-10 with only 42 seconds remaining, St. John’s took a timeout to set up the final push. Things went according to plan from there, as Ryan Fitzgerald promptly connected on a tough shot from the right side with 21 seconds left. Despite struggling throughout the second half, Jordan Rothman was able to grind out a win on the next faceoff which eventually led to senior Harry Kutner fighting through a hold and converting a left-handed shot to tie the score at 12 with only seven seconds remaining. The regulation drama wasn’t quite over as goalie Jeff Lowman turned away two point blank shots by Georgetown after the ensuing faceoff.
Rothman would win the opening faceoff in overtime and Kevin Cernuto almost ended things immediately but his effort went just wide of the netting. After a timeout, Fitzgerald attacked a short pole with a pretty spin move that freed the sophomore up in front of goal for the game winner. Fitzgerald’s two timely goals brought the midfielder to nine tallies in the last five games.
The victory was as monumental as it was exciting for St. John’s as it claimed its first triumph over a ranked opponent since defeating then-No. 5 Georgetown on Feb. 27, 2009. The Red Storm players also left the field carrying the distinction as the only team in program history to win at Georgetown. It was also the first overtime victory for the Red Storm since an 8-7 victory against Vermont on March 20, 2010. The season’s sixth victory also gives head coach Jason Miller his highest season total and the most Red Storm wins in one year since the program’s reinstatement.
St. John’s is starting to make last minute comebacks a bit of a habit as the Red Storm topped Rutgers 7-6 thanks to a pair of late-game goals on March 17. In that game St. John’s needed just a bit more time as it scored the game-tying and game-winning goals in an 18 second span.
McArdle finished the game with a team-high six points on two goals and four assists. It is the fourth time this season the sophomore has recorded at least five points in a game. Kutner finished with three goals and an assist and Cernuto scored on two unassisted efforts. Lowman had a season-high 17 saves. Defenseman Harrison Freid had arguably his best performance as a Johnnie with four groundballs and two caused turnovers.
RED STORMING THE RANKINGS (As of April 9)
The strong on-field play by the Red Storm now has many members of the team ranked among the nation and conference leaders in a number of statistical categories.
McArdle (17 goals, 21 assists) is 16th in points per game (3.80) and 10th in assists per game (2.1) nationally. McArdle leads the BIG EAST conference in both points per game and assists per game. The sophomore also recorded the highest individual point total of any BIG EAST player this season with his eight-point performance against Holy Cross on Feb. 18.
Terence Leach (18 goals) now ranks 66th in the NCAA and fourth in the BIG EAST at 1.80 goals per game. The senior attackman also leads the BIG EAST in man-up goals per game.
Dillon Ayers is ranked 29th nationally and first in the BIG EAST at 4.5 groundballs per game. The junior LSM has picked up 22 total groundballs over the team’s last three games.
Rothman ranks 35th in the NCAA and third in the BIG EAST for groundballs per game (4.3). The junior also ranks 33rd in the nation for faceoff win percentage (52.2 percent).
Lowman, a Tewaaraton Award Watch List member, ranks 6th in saves per game (11.60) and 19th in save percentage (54.5 percent) with 116 saves and 97 goals allowed. .
SCOUTING THE WILDCATS
When meeting up with Villanova, the opposition better be prepared for a track meet as the Wildcats average 11.09 goals per game and have scored 40 times in their three BIG EAST games. With that high pace Villanova has also left itself susceptible on the defensive end as opponents score 10.19 goals a game.
Perhaps the most important matchup will take place at the faceoff X where Villanova sophomore Thomas Croonquist has dominated all season long with a 63.4 percent win percentage. The specialist’s play has allowed Villanova to extend its scoring runs and control the pace of the game.
It will be important for the Red Storm to avoid committing penalties as the Wildcats convert on 50 percent of all man-up opportunities, good for fifth in the NCAA. Villanova also kills off a solid 71.1 percent of its own penalties.
Preseason BIG EAST Offensive Player of the Year Kevin Cunningham leads Villanova with 2.91 points per game (16 goals, 16 assists). Jack Rice has been finding the back of the net at an impressive rate totaling 26 goals on the season with a 42.6 shot percentage.
St. John’s returns home for Senior Day festivities and its final BIG EAST game of the season when it takes on Providence College at 1 p.m. on Saturday, April 21 in Queens. Keep up with Red Storm lacrosse all season long at RedStormSports.com and on Twitter by following @STJ_Lacrosse.