St. John’s soccer edges Princeton, advances in NCAA Tourney

St. John’s soccer advances into the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament in a tight win over Princeton. 

The St. John’s soccer season continues as the Red Storm secured a tight 1-0 victory in its First Round matchup over Princeton at Belson Stadium.

Both teams played to a similar result back on September 28 in New Jersey.

After a couple of early chances from Princeton, the Red Storm controlled some more of the possession and had some chances to open the scoring. Johan Aquilon got into a decent position, but his shot from just outside of the box was too high.

While Princeton had six shots in the game, its best opportunity came in the 21st minute but Luka Gavran came up with the huge save on the close-range shot.

In the 29th minute, the Red Storm nearly scored on two occasions on a frantic corner kick sequence. Matt Chandler’s header at the back post was saved off the line by a Tigers defender and then Einar Lye’s follow-up attempt went just wide.

The breakthrough for the Johnnies came right on the stroke of halftime as Brandon Knapp took advantage of a fortunate deflection on a pass by Atila Ashrafi that was intended to go out wide.

Instead, the deflection went right into the path of the senior midfielder, who scored with a shot to the back post and into the net to give St. John’s the lead at halftime.

The goal was Knapp’s fifth of the season, pulling him into a tie with Lucas Bartlett for the team lead.

Coming out of the break, the second half started just like how the first frame finished.

St. John’s dominated the ball and Princeton was struggling to generate any sort of offense.

In the 49th minute, St. John’s nearly doubled its lead with a cross into Wesley Leggett but his header from point-blank range banged off the crossbar.

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As the second half went on, Princeton tried to push on and get a late equalizer to force overtime and had the Red Storm pinned back for most of the final ten minutes. The closest they came to an equalizer was a bicycle kick from midfielder Kevin O’Toole in the 85th minute, but Gavran came up with the save.

The 1-0 win marked the 12th shutout this season for Gavran, moving the junior into a tie for third place on the all-time single-season shutouts list.

He is one behind Jason Landers (2006) for second place and three behind Neal Kitson (2008) for the all-time lead.

St. John’s now sits at 11-5-3 on the season and moves on to face a stiff challenge in the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament against No. 1 seed Oregon State.

St. John’s soccer faces massive challenge up next

The Johnnies will now hit the road to face the Oregon State Beavers in Corvallis on Sunday night at 9:00 p.m. on the Pac-12 Network.

The Beavers are 12-2-3 (7-1-2 PAC-12) this season and have several dangerous goal scorers.

Five Oregon State players will go into the game with five or more goals this season.

The attack is led by senior midfielder Tyrone Mondi who has eight goals and five assists on the season.

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Dealing with this offense will be a challenge for this excellent Red Storm defense, especially on the road in the Pacific Northwest.

A win would advance the Johnnies to the Sweet 16 for the second time in three years.

The winner of Sunday night’s contest will face the winner of North Carolina and No. 16 New Hampshire.