QUEENS, N.Y. – The quest for a league record 10th Big East title will begin for the St. John’s University men the no. 3 seeded side will welcome No. 6 seeded Creighton for a 6 p.m. Saturday encounter.
With a mark of 5-2-2 during league action, the Red Storm (8-6-3) turned in its best effort in conference play since 2009. That year, fresh off an appearance in the 2008 College Cup, the Johnnies tallied a 6-1-4 record against Big East opponents before claiming their eighth conference crown.
Since the league began sponsoring men’s soccer in 1982, no program has been able to rival the success of St. John’s in postseason play. The Johnnies have claimed a conference record nine Big East Tournament titles, five more than Seton Hall University in second place among current league members and two more than the University of Connecticut in second place among all-time members.
In 54 Big East tournament games scattered across 25 seasons, the Red Storm sports a 34-16-4 record all-time, good enough for the highest winning percentage (.667) among teams with at least four appearances.
The Red Storm enters the postseason riding a four-game unbeaten streak, which has seen the Johnnies earn positive results against Georgetown University, Villanova University, Providence College and DePaul University. The Red Storm has been anchored by its defensive core over that stretch, having surrendered one goal in over 390 minutes. Since the DePaul match Oct. 21, redshirt junior goalkeeper Andrew Withers has recorded three clean sheets to go along with a 0.23 goals-against average and a .944 save percentage. Withers ranks fifth in all of Division I with an .855 save percentage, while his eight shutouts and 0.62 GAA rank 10th and 13th, respectively.
Creighton enters the postseason with a record of 9-6-2, including a 3-4-2 mark in Big East action. Ranked as high as No. 14 in the United Soccer Coaches poll, the Bluejays are led by senior Ricky Lopez-Espin, the conference’s top goal-scorer with 11 goals. On the defensive end, fifth-year senior Michael Kluver has started all but one game between the pipes for Creighton, compiling a 1.18 GAA along with a .743 save percentage.
The Bluejays and the Red Storm will meet for the ninth time in the history of the two programs, a vibrant series history that includes many memorable battles. Before becoming Big East foes in 2013, St. John’s and Creighton met three times in the NCAA Division I Tournament between 1996-2003, including wins for the Red Storm in the 1996 national semifinals and the 2003 national quarterfinals. St. John’s is 2-4-2 all-time against Creighton and has played the Bluejays to a draw in each of their last two meetings.