The Red Storm advances to the Round of 16 for the first time in program history
The St. John's women's soccer team made history on Friday evening, advancing past Samford, 3-0, in penalty kicks to reach the Round of 16 for the first time in program history.
Having made just one collegiate appearance heading into Friday night, St. John's freshman goalkeeper Meghan Groah was called upon in the decisive penalty shootout. The Winchester, Va., native, who had not seen game action since logging 16 minutes and 49 seconds against Saint Joseph's on Aug. 21, held Samford off the board completely, making two saves and forcing another miss to propel the Red Storm's NCAA Tournament run into the Round of 16. Three of the Red Storm's four shooters converted on their penalty attempts: Jessica Garziano, Shannon Aviza and Michelle Money.
The Red Storm improved to 13-6-3 on the season and snapped Samford's 13-game winning streak that dated back to Sept. 24.
"I thought it was a really good team performance," said Head Coach Ian Stone. "Samford is a fantastic team, they have had a great deal of success and really gave us a fight. I thought we played very well and maybe could have capitalized on more opportunities, but it was great NCAA Tournament type game and we are so glad to get though and are looking forward to Sunday."
The Johnnies jumped out to an early lead, as Nicole Gordon struck in the 15th minute to put St. John's on top. The sequence started as Garziano sent a through ball up to Gordon inside the box. The Amityville, N.Y., native rocketed her shot to the left corner of the cage to give the Red Storm the upper hand.
Gordon nearly made it a two-goal advantage twice over the next seven minutes, striking in the 20th and 21st minutes. The sophomore forward saw her first shot stopped by Samford's netminder before her second attempt went just off target.
The Bulldogs tied the game in the 28th minute when Alyssa Conarton converted on a free kick. The junior defender sent a right-footed blast to the top left corner of the cage for the equalizer.
At the intermission, St. John's held a 9-3 edge in shots.
Just seven minutes into the second stanza, the Johnnies struck again as Aviza converted on her first goal of the season to give the Red Storm a 2-1 edge. The play began with a Zsani Kajan free kick into the box that Aviza headed home.
In the 82nd minute, Samford's Alyssa Frazier converted on a penalty kick to knot the score at 2-2.
With the clock winding down, the Johnnies saw one final opportunity in regulation, as Gordon put a shot on target. The sophomore forward's attempt to was smothered by the Bulldogs' keeper, sending the two programs into overtime.Ava Collins recorded St. John's lone shot attempt of the overtime periods. The Auckland, New Zealand, native's shot was blocked in the 108th minute. Collins' strike was the last of extra time, sending both programs into a penalty shootout.
The Red Storm scored on three of its four PK opportunities, as Garziano, Aviza and Money all converted from the spot. Groah came up with two crucial saves for the Johnnies to ultimately lock in the victory.
The Red Storm will return to action on Sunday, playing the winner of Memphis and Duke at Koskinen Stadium. Kickoff is slated for 6 p.m.