Early Barrage Pushes St. John's Past Creighton, 3-1|
Nov. 4, 2017
QUEENS, N.Y. - The St. John's men's soccer team wasted no time on Saturday evening at Belson Stadium, scoring twice in the opening seven minutes of its BIG EAST Quarterfinal match with Creighton before eventually downing the Bluejays, 3-1, to earn a date with Georgetown in the semifinals.
Playing in the first BIG EAST Tournament games of their careers, three St. John's players carried the offensive effort and propelled the Johnnies (9-6-3) to victory. Alistair Johnston recorded his second brace of the season, scoring the Red Storm's second and third goals of the evening to seal the victory. Classmate Matt Forster kicked off the offensive flurry for the Johnnies in the fourth minute with his third goal of the season before assisting on Johnston's first tally just three minutes and 20 seconds later. Harry Cooksley, who was named the BIG EAST Midfielder of the Year on Friday, assisted on all three goals for the Red Storm, becoming the first St. John's player since Tadeu Terra against LIU Brooklyn on Sept. 19, 2010, to register three helpers in a single contest. The senior from London now has eight assists on the season, tied for the most by a St. John's player in a single campaign since Matt Groenwald registered nine in the College Cup year of 2003.
The Red Storm's first win in a BIG EAST Championship game since claiming its ninth league title in 2011, Saturday also marked the first time the Johnnies scored three goals in a conference tournament contest since blanking Rutgers, 3-0, in the opening round in 2009. That year, the Red Storm was crowned BIG EAST Champion for the eighth time.
"Creighton's a great offensive team. They have great athletes and they had us under a lot of stress after we went up 2-0, but we did well and had players make big plays," said Head Coach Dr. Dave Masur after the game. "I'm proud of them. I'm proud of the effort. We're excited to move on and we have to make sure we move on with the right focus."
Forster kicked off the scoring just a few minutes after the opening whistle, executing a beautiful sequence with his countryman Cooksley. Just a few steps inside the midfield line, Cooksley placed a perfect left-footed strike on the ball, sending it to a perfect spot for a streaking Forster. The sophomore from Bedford, England, promptly chipped the ball over a charging keeper and into the back of the net, giving the Red Storm the early 1-0 lead.
Just three minutes and 20 seconds later, Cooksley found Forster again on the left side of the box. This time, Forster delivered a perfect cross in front for Johnston, who headed it into the back of the net and set up the Johnnies with a commanding 2-0 advantage just 6:53 into the contest.
Creighton (9-7-2) responded less than 15 minutes later, as BIG EAST Co-Offensive Player of the Year Ricky Lopez-Espin netted his league-leading 12th goal of the season to cut the deficit to one. After Lopez-Espin's tally, the Bluejays controlled the momentum for the remainder of the half, but the Red Storm held strong and kept Creighton from evening the score.
The Johnnies held onto their one-goal advantage for the next 52 minutes of play before striking again and pushing their lead back to a pair. Continuing a recent trend of goals for the Red Storm, the sequence began with a free kick from Cooksley outside the box. The senior unleashed another masterful right-footed strike toward the far post, where Johnston was waiting to send it home and secure the Red Storm's spot in the BIG EAST semifinals.
"I think we're just getting started," said Cooksley after his team extended its unbeaten streak to five games. "We've putting a good run together here and we're just getting started."
The Red Storm will face Georgetown in the semifinals on Wednesday less than two weeks after handing the then-No. 10/7 Hoyas a 1-0 loss at Belson Stadium. First kick is set for 1 p.m. on the BIG EAST Digital Network.