Trio of Early Goals Propels St. John's Past RV/No. 19 Xavier|
Sept. 23, 2017
QUEENS, N.Y. - Welcoming its first nationally ranked opponent of the year to Belson Stadium, the St. John's men's soccer team came out of the gate firing on Saturday night, netting three first half goals to down RV/No. 19 Xavier by a score of 3-0.
Freshman Jack Shearer recorded his first collegiate goals in style against the Musketeers (5-2-2, 1-1 BIG EAST), scoring in the ninth and 25th minutes to provide St. John's (5-2-1, 2-0 BIG EAST) with an overwhelming advantage early. Both of Shearer's goals were the result of terrific ball movement, as David Enstrom and Andrea Previati assisted on the game winner before Alistair Johnston and Bjarni Rognvaldsson added helpers on the first insurance tally.
Filippo Ricupati, the Red Storm's leading scorer last season, found the back of the net for the first time this year in the 36th minute, wowing the crowd with an outstanding individual effort in the box to set himself up for the marker. Wilhelm Nilsson also recorded his first career assist on the play.
In addition to the offensive explosion, the Red Storm's defensive unit also provided one of its finest efforts of the season, holding Xavier to just three shots, only one of which was on target. Enstrom, Nilsson, Rognvaldsson and Jordan Shankle each recorded a full 90 minutes on the back line, while redshirt junior Andrew Withers made one save to record his fifth shutout in just eight tries this season. Benny Lafortune also logged 90 minutes in the defensive midfield, while Zachary Shiposh tallied 78 minutes.
"We have a great leadership group that's really been pushing the team forward," said Dr. Dave Masur after the game. "I thought we really took advantage of our crosses and some of the balls in the box that we were able to create and those led to goals. I can't say enough accolades about our guys tonight, but it's only one game and we have to be ready for more."
With the win, St. John's is off to its best start in BIG EAST play since 2007, when the Johnnies opened up conference action with wins over No. 5 West Virginia and Pittsburgh. Overall, St. John's has compiled its best record through eight games since 2013, when the Red Storm went an identical 5-2-1 en route to the program's 20th NCAA Tournament appearance.
The winners of four in a row and unbeaten in their last five, the Johnnies are also on the program's longest streaks since the 2013 campaign in each of those respective categories.
Saturday's night's three-goal outburst marked the Red Storm's highest offensive output against a ranked opponent since Sept. 1, 2011, when St. John's topped No. 8 William & Mary by a score of 3-0 on the road in Williamsburg, Va.
St. John's has now picked up wins over ranked opponents in each of the last two campaigns, downing No. 11/14 Butler, 2-1, last year at Belson Stadium.
After the Red Storm controlled possession in the opening minutes, Shearer broke through in the ninth to give his team the early lead. Previati began the sequence with a cross from the top right of the box into Enstrom, who headed a try on target only to have it turned aside by Xavier keeper Zachary Nelson. Luckily for the Red Storm, Shearer was there to bury home the rebound and put the Johnnies ahead, 1-0.
Just over 15 minutes later, Shearer would clinch his first career brace, capping off a masterful string of events for the Red Storm. With the ball on the near sideline, Rognvaldsson delivered a brilliant strike into the box for Johnston on the far post. With his defender applying pressure, Johnston deftly touched the ball back to the near side for Shearer, who finished in front and put the Red Storm on top by a pair.
The Red Storm would strike for the third and final time in the 36th minute, when Ricupati delivered one of the more electric goals in recent memory at Belson Stadium. After Nilsson sent a towering ball into the box from the other side of midfield, Ricupati headed it skyward and sought to create space between himself and his defender. With the ball falling back toward the turf, Ricpuati stuck out his right foot and flicked it past the charging keeper, giving the Johnnies the decisive 3-0 lead with which they would end the contest.
Xavier played the final 66 minutes of the game with just 10 men after Curtis Hansford was assessed a red card following a dangerous play on Rafael Bustamante.