Christina Bellero produced some late-match heroics in which legends are made. (Photo courtesy of St. John’s SID)
QUEENS, N.Y. – With 30 minutes remaining in regulation, the St. John’s University women found themselves trailing Villanova University by two goals at Belson Stadium Thursday.
Senior Christina Bellero came to the rescue, playing a role in all three goals. He struck twice down the stretch, including the game-winner in the ninth minute of the first extratime time period en route to a dramatic 3-2 Big East victory.
The Melville, N.Y. native also assisted on the Red Storm’s equalizer in the 88th minute by senior Lucy Whipp. Two other members of the senior class, Samie Scaffidi and Mecara Bruce, added assists in the Red Storm’s thrilling comeback. Bruce did the leg work necessary for the Johnnies’ first goal, winning a 50-50 ball that found its way to Bellero and into the back of the net in the 60th minute. Scaffidi made the game-winner possible in the 99th, creating separation before sending a pinpoint cross into the box for Bellero.
St. John’s (8-7-1, 4-2-1) won its third consecutive game. Villanova fell to 9-7 and 3-4.
Goalkeeper Meredith Reinhardt improved to 7-5-1 on the year, making three saves.
Reinhardt made the save of the match on her first opportunity of the night, denying Bri Austin on the doorstep in the third minute.
Following two touch passes from Reagan Smith and Daniela Nelson, freshman Shaye Seyffart tucked a curving try underneath the cross bar from 25 yards, giving the Wildcats a 1-0 lead in the 17th minute.
Villanova added to its lead in the 58th minute. Kristin Barbour kept a corner kick on the ground in front to Chloe O’Neill, who flicked it past Reinhardt.
Only two and a half minutes later, the Red Storm cut into the lead with Bellero’s first goal. Following a corner kick from Zsani Kajan, a scrum ensued in front of the net that saw Bruce emerge with possession. The Bordentown, N.J. native pushed it out to Bellero, who converted and sliced the deficit in half.
With just over two minutes remaining in regulation, Bellero sent a cross from the left side that was deflected off the foot of a defender to an open Whipp in the box. The Ormskirk, England senior tucked a right-footed shot inside the right post, tying it at 2-2.
The end of regulation featured some fireworks, as Samantha Masur and Villanova keeper Hensley Hancuff were involved in an altercation that resulted in red cards.
With both sides missing the services of one player in the extra period, the Red Storm tallied the winner a few seconds into the 99th minute. After collecting a pass from Alexa Dolgos just inside midfield, Emily Purtell, who entered the game at the start of extratime, sent a long pass down the right side for a streaking Scaffidi. Scaffidi played the ball forward to create separation before blasting a cross into the box toward Bellero. Two defenders, including newly minted goalkeeper Rebecca Gartner, attempted to make a sliding stab at the ball, but it floated harmlessly to Bellero, who banged it home to secure three points for the Johnnies.
The Red Storm has two regular-season games remaining as the squad heads to Xavier University for a Sunday matinee before closing out the campaign against DePaul University at Belson Stadium Oct. 25 at 7 p.m.