St. John’s soccer magical season ends in loss to Duke

St. John’s soccer season ends in crushing fashion to Duke in the Sweet 16

On Sunday evening, the magic ran out for the St. John’s soccer team and its incredible season.

The Red Storm made its first Sweet 16 appearance in program history and took on Duke in Durham, North Carolina and fell in a crushing defeat to the Blue Devils, 7-1.

The Johnnies never really gained a foothold in this match and were under pressure from the very beginning.

Naya Lipkens made several saves in the opening few minutes to the game scoreless, but the junior could not keep everything out.

Freshman sensation Michelle Cooper put the Blue Devils on the board in the 4th minute and had the first six shots of the game for Duke. The forward was by far the best player on the field and the Red Storm just did not have an answer for her or the rest of Duke’s high octane attack.

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Duke would add two more in the span of two minutes in the 26th and 28th minutes through Tess Boade and Copper with her second of the game to make it a 3-0 scoreline at halftime.

The Blue Devils had 10 shots in the opening frame while St. John’s had none.

Coming out of the halftime break it looked as if there might have been a glimmer of hope for St. John’s as Maia Cabrera connected with a header from point-blank range from a Jessica Garziano corner-kick in the 47th minute to make it a 3-1 scoreline.

The goal was Cabrera’s sixth of the season and Garziano’s 10th assist.

However, the Blue Devils did not let the momentum swing and turned things up a gear adding another two goals in the 62nd and 69th minutes from Mackenzie Pluck and Olivia Migli.

Migli would get her second of the game in the 80th minute and forward Grace Watkins would add another goal two minutes later for good measure.

Shots finished 21-2 in favor of Duke.

It is an absolutely crushing way to see the season end, but the St. John’s  accomplished what was thought to be the unthinkable for this team this season.

Where does the St. John’s soccer team go from here?

The Red Storm put together the greatest season in the history of the program advancing to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament for the first time ever and making its second-ever Big East Championship appearance after the team was picked to barely finish in the postseason spots at sixth in the conference’s preseason poll.

Despite the heavy defeat on Sunday night, it was still an extremely impressive year for Ian Stone’s group.

The next step for this program is to develop more consistency and start building to make this sort of season normal, rather than the outlier.

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St. John’s should try and make sure this is a Big East Tournament program every year, which is a lot easier said than done, but that is the next step of progression.

The biggest question for next season is what will the attack look like without Zsani Kajan.

The Budapest native will graduate and close out her illustrious St. John’s career with 45 career goals after scoring 17 this fall and surely has a huge future in the pros up next.

There are intriguing pieces on this team to build around.

Nicole Gordon and Ava Collins will only be juniors next season, Athina Sofroniou emerged as a potential building block in the midfield for the next couple of years as the freshman from Dix Hills, New York really impressed this season.

Garziano will still be around, as well as others along, with intriguing freshmen and sophomore prospects that now will have more playing time open to them next season.