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Blown away by the Storm

Justin Schuver | Monday, September 8, 2003

The game was billed as a matchup of the two best teams in the Big East, but on Saturday night, St. John’s left Alumni Field with the upper hand.

The Red Storm took advantage of sloppy play by the Irish and ran away with a 3-0 victory in the Big East opener for both teams.

It was an unusual score for the conference rivalry, as the previous three St. John’s-Notre Dame matchups were all decided by one goal.

Irish coach Bobby Clark was disappointed with the final outcome, especially in front of a spirited home crowd of over 1,700 people. However, he also realizes that the loss is only one game in a long conference schedule.

“I think we’ve got to stick together,” he said. “I think that winning or losing tonight isn’t really going to make our team. It was an opportunity lost, but [St. John’s] is a very good team.”

Red Storm goalie Guy Hertz made six saves in the victory, despite looking shaky at times throughout the game. His Irish counterpart, Chris Sawyer, made two saves in the loss.

St. John’s forward Simone Salinno paced his team with a goal and an assist, and forward Sebastian Ralph collected two assists.

It was the Irish who held much of the offensive momentum to start the game, in which the only quality chance for the Red Storm early in the match was a soft header easily controlled by Sawyer.

In the 9th minute, Irish defender Kevin Goldthwaite stole the ball from a Red Storm player and gave a nice assist to forward Justin Detter, who aimed a shot for the lower right corner. Hertz made the save but gave up a weak rebound that he was able to corral.

Notre Dame controlled the shots for the first 15 minutes of the game, outshooting St. John’s 4-1 in that period. In the 16th minute, the Red Storm broke the scoreless tie.

The Irish lost the ball at midfield after a sloppy pass from a defender, and Ralph collected the ball and got off a great assist to midfielder Matt Groenwald, who had managed to pass the entire Irish defense. Groenwald forced Sawyer to commit and blasted a shot to the right of the diving goalie to give the Red Storm their first goal of the game on only their second shot.

Just three minutes later, the Red Storm added to their lead as Salinno took the ball down the right side and made a nice assist to Ralph, who was inside the box. Ralph waited for Sawyer to commit to the shot and then timed a perfect cross to forward Angel Rodriguez, who put the ball in the vacated left side.

Neither team would have a good offensive look until the very end of the half, when Detter got off a hard shot from the top of the box, but Hertz made a fine save.

Any hopes of an Irish comeback were deflated just three minutes into the second half, as St. John’s took advantage of another bad turnover by the Irish defense to take an insurmountable 3-0 lead.

An Irish defender attempted to trap the ball inside the box, but instead allowed for the ball to squirt away from him. Salinno made a quick move to get to the ball, and then dribbled in uncontested on Sawyer, drilling a shot past the helpless goaltender.

“Tonight we possibly made a couple of mistakes that you can’t make in games like that,” Clark said after the game. “That’s a lesson that we’ll maybe learn; we can’t make mistakes in games of this size.”

After falling behind 3-0, the Irish offense seemed to regroup, but it was too little too late for a team that came into the match with heavy expectations. Perhaps the best example of Notre Dame’s night came right at the end of the game.

In the 87th minute, Detter came in alone on an uncontested shot against Hertz. The Red Storm goalkeeper was out of position and had to slide across his line to get to the ball. Detter’s shot just grazed off Hertz’ foot and flew harmlessly into the air, where a St. John’s defender was able to volley the ball harmlessly back toward the midfield.

The Irish ended the game outshooting the Red Storm 12-9 but were unable to get anything past Hertz and the rest of the vaunted St. John’s defense.

“You can make statistics out whichever way you wish,” Clark said. “Their goalie had three times the number of saves our goalie had. Some of those saves – if he hadn’t made them … then it could have been us [who would have won].

“At the end of the day, the only statistics that really count are goals.”