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But there is a different twist to this installment. It is the first time the two teams are facing off as early as the quarterfinals as the Red Storm garnered the No. 2 seed and Rutgers is seeded No. 7. Twice the two battled in the semifinals and once in the final. But that doesn't mean this game is any less important than the other three.
"This is a very tough draw and we're playing a great team in Rutgers," St. John's head coach Dave Masur said. "They've missed their three top strikers for most of the year and they are ready to prove a point."
This will be unfamiliar territory for Rutgers (9-8-1, 5-5-1), who has been seeded No. 4 or higher since joining the conference in 1995. This will be their first quarterfinal road game and one the Scarlet Knights will need to win to keep their slim NCAA tournament hopes alive.
"There is more at stake for us," Rutgers head coach Bob Reasso said. "No matter what, Dave's team is in the NCAA. This is a must-win for us. If we don't win, our season is over."
Ranked No. 7 in the country, St. John's (13-3-2, 8-2-1) appears to have locked up their ninth NCAA tournament berth in a row, especially after impressive 4-0 win over Florida International and Butler University in the FIU Classic in Miami last weekend. If St. John's can get past Rutgers, the Red Storm may be looking at the chance to host a tournament game or two. But with the Scarlet Knights' season on the line, Masur knows his alma mater will come out firing on all cylinders.
"The intensity better be the same on our end," he said. "When a team is down to a one or out situation, teams put forth a great amount of intensity. They have a chip on their shoulder and will be ready to prove something on Sunday."
The Scarlet Knights are coming off a tough 2-1 overtime loss to Connecticut, ranked No. 4 in the country, Saturday night in Piscataway, N.J. But Reasso's side has been rejuvenated of late with the return of Egyptian international Sherif Ed Bialy. The freshman striker was academically cleared by the NCAA after missing eight games in the middle of the season. In his first game back last Wednesday he scored two goals and added an assist in the Scarlet Knights 5-4 win over the University of Pennsylvania.
Dennis Ludwig, the team's leading scorer last year, is also back to form after missing four games to injury. Combined with Dennis Sheppard, who leads Rutgers with 12 goals and four assists for 28 points, the threesome poses a threat to a Red Storm defense, which has posted 10 regular season shutouts.
"Dennis Ludwig had a very good game against us [in the Red Storm's 1-0 win Oct. 11 at Rutgers] and gave our defense fits they haven't been given all year," Masur said. "We have to be ready for them all."
Leading the charge for the Red Storm is senior Omar Chavez, who has anchored the stingy defensive unit that has allowed just nine goals this season. The Red Storm finished the regular season with four straight shutouts and has not allowed a goal in 377 minutes, dating back to a 1-0 loss at Notre Dame on Oct. 14.
Senior keeper Jeffery Stoklosa has an 8-2-2 record with seven shutouts and a 0.29 conference goals against average, which breaks the conference mark set by former Red Storm keeper Jon Urbom (0.46) in 1993.
The two teams first met in the 1995 NCAA tournament, with Rutgers edging out the Red Storm, 1-0. The 1996 Big East semifinal at Rutgers proved to be one of the most memorable tournament games in conference history, with the Scarlet Knights again coming out ahead, winning in penalty kicks.
In 1997 the stage was the Big East championship game and the Scarlet Knight prevailed, 1-0 in overtime, to win its first conference title. In 1998, it was back to Yurcak Field for the semifinals, this time with the Red Storm scoring two second half goals in a come-from-behind, 2-1 win.
The winner of the St. John's/Rutgers game faces either No. 3 seed Boston College or No. 6 Georgetown in the tournament semifinals at Rutgers University Fri., Nov. 10.
St. John's 4, Butler 0. Shalrie Joseph scored his team-leading 11th goal of the year in the 12th minute. Matia Damiani and Rich Bradley each added first half goals for the Red Storm. Angel Rodriguez scored the final goal of the game in the 63rd minute.
St. John's 4, Florida International 0. Bradley scored the game's first goal with 43 seconds left in the first half and Marlon Rojas, Joseph and Chris Bennice added second-half goals for the Red Storm in the opener of the FIU Classic at University Park in Miami.
©2000 Community Newspaper Group
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