New players add depth to Red Storm soccer

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For the St. John’s men’s soccer team, it sounds like the same old song. Once again the team has high hopes, as proof of its No. 11 preseason ranking. And once again, its head coach Dave Masur has assembled a brutal schedule, featuring some of the top teams in the country like Indiana, Duke and defending NCAA champions Connecticut.

And for a second straight year there is a throng of fresh faces — 18 to be exact — in Red Storm uniforms. But the main difference from last year, when St. John’s went 14-5-2 and lost in the second round of the College Cup to Virginia, is the quality of the new players. Masur believes he has one of his deepest teams in years.

“We’ve got a group of 10 or 12 guys who can play right now. It’s just a question of how consistent they are when they get their opportunity,” said Masur, who has a 159-41-23 record in nine years at St. John’s. “This year we have a deeper class and a more talented group.”

Leading that young group of players will be a pair of seasoned veterans in the midfield, seniors Jeff Matteo and Shalrie Joseph, who were both All-Big East first team selections in the preseason polls as well as last year’s postseason conference polls.

“The experience will help us. Shalrie is one of the top 10 players in the country,” said Matteo, who had two goals and seven assists for 11 points last year as a center midfielder. “And this is probably one of the best recruiting classes since I’ve been here. There are a lot of great players who can step in and play as freshmen.”

The addition of newcomers, like freshmen midfielders Chris Corcoran, Matt Groenwald and Peter Philipakos, Holy Cross standout Alessandro Acquista, Chris Leidner, as well as transfers Stephen Cash from North Carolina and goalkeeper Guy Hertz from Mercer Community College, has turned each practice into a daily tryout.

“Hopefully it’s going to increase the learning curve,” Masur said. “They’re going to have to be sharper, smarter and they’re going to have to understand they’re going to have to do things that they’re not going to do well and they can’t get frustrated because someone else won’t get frustrated and take that spot.”

Joining Matteo and Joseph as returnees in midfield are juniors Alberto Duenas and Pat Lonergan, as well as sophomore Angel Rodriguez. Anchoring the back line will be sophomore Chris Wingert, who will be playing center back for the first time in his career, as well as senior Rich Bradley and sophomore Matia Damiani.

In net, the Red Storm return sophomore Billy Gaudette, who, along with Wingert, was selected to the Big East All-Rookie team after recording three shutouts and posting a 0.50 goals against average in six matches last year.

“I definitely think we have more talent than last year. We just have to put it together,” Wingert said. “There are a lot of new player with a lot of talented returnees. I just hope we can mesh and put it together and make a run.”

St. John’s will get a get a gauge on where they stand among the nation’s elite Friday when the Red Storm travel to Indiana to take on the No. 4 ranked Hoosiers in the Adidas Classic tournament. St. John’s will also face No. 13 Duke at the Philips/Adidas Classic at Rutgers.

Of course the Big East is once again stacked, led by No. 1 ranked Connecticut. The Huskies and Red Storm battle in Storrs, Conn. Saturday, Sept. 15.

“The Big East is going to be very competitive with nine or 10 great teams and maybe eight teams capable of going to the finals,” Masur said.

But Joseph wouldn’t want the schedule to be any easier.

“We don’t expect an easy schedule,” he said. “We have to go through a tough schedule if we want to be No. 1 in the country.”

Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at or call 229-0300.

Posted 7:22 pm, October 10, 2011
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