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"It's a tough draw," said St. John's junior midfielder Jeff Matteo. "But we have to go through it. It seems like everyone has a tough draw. There's about seven teams in each bracket capable of winning it all."
St. John's (13-4-2) also opened the tournament away from home last year, defeating seventh-seeded Maryland, 1-0, in College Park before falling to Penn State, 2-1, in triple-overtime in the second round.
Heading into the Big East tournament, it was believed the Red Storm had a chance to host at least a first-round game, but the combination of a quarterfinal home loss to Rutgers and local teams Hofstra and Columbia not making the field contributed to the road game.
"I thought we'd have a chance to host, but geographically it didn't line up well," said St. John's head coach Dave Masur. "They matched up Boston College with the University of Rhode Island, Brown and Vermont, Connecticut and Dartmouth. The nearest team to us was Lehigh and they had to push them down to face a seeded team [Virginia]."
James Madison (17-3-1) had a six-game winning streak snapped with a 4-0 loss to William and Mary in the Colonial Athletic Association championship game Sunday. The Dukes, who also garnered an at-large bid, only lost twice to the Tribe and once to Virginia, the tournament's No. 5 seed. The winner of the St. John's/James Madison game faces either the Cavaliers or Patriot League champs Lehigh in the second round of the tournament next weekend.
Offensively, James Madison is led by senior midfielder David Wood, who has a team-high 11 goals, including five game-winners, and four assists for 26 points. The co-captain was named to the All-CAA first team. Junior midfielder Reggie Rivera and senior Randy Steeprow each have 16 points and both were named to the All-CAA second team.
Anchoring the Dukes defense, which allowed just 18 goals in 21 games, is junior Levi Strayer, who was named CAA Co-Defender of the Year. Sophomore keeper Josh Kovolenko was also named to the All-CAA first team after posting a 0.62 goals against average heading into the CAA tournament. JMU head coach Tom Martin was also named CAA Coach of the Year.
"They're very fit and very organized," Masur said. "They are physically big. We're going to have to match them physically and be sharp and quick in our decision making."
Strong defensive play has also been the staple of the Red Storm's success this year. Led by All-Big East first team member Omar Chavez, the St. John's defense has allowed just 12 goals and has posted 10 shutouts.
Junior Shalrie Joseph, also on the All-Big East first team, led the Red Storm attack with a team-high 13 goals and two assists for 28 points. He also scored both St. John's goals in the team's 3-2 loss to Rutgers in the Big East quarterfinals, a game Matteo said is already forgotten.
"We were unlucky, but we played good," Matteo said. "The wind was tough to overcome. But we're going to be ready. We have to because you either win or you're out. There are no second chances."
©2000 Community Newspaper Group
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