Niko Petridis (right) had another big game for St. John’s. (Photo courtesy of the St. John’s SID)
QUEENS, N.Y. – Trailing for the first time this season after conceding a 13th-minute goal to No. 19 Xavier, the No. 9 St. John’s men mounted a second-half comeback to register a 3-1 Big East triumph at Belson Stadium Friday night.
The Red Storm (7-0-0) is off to its best start in the men’s program history.
Senior midfielder Niko Petridis, who had recorded two goals and two assists in the team’s last three games, tallied twice, including the game-winner, and assisted on the third. The University of Connecticut transfer leads the team with four goals.
Brandon Duarte netted the Red Storm’s first goal, heading home his first of the campaign off a Petridis corner kick from Petridis in the 57th minute. Duarte became the 10th Red Storm player to score a goal this season in front of 1,653 fans, the Red Storm’s highest attendance figure at home since Oct. 4, 2014.
“The Xavier keeper made some great saves in the first half and we knew that if we kept plugging away things would hopefully go our way,” St. John’s head coach Dr. Dave Masur said after winning his 415th career game. “You have to make things go your way, you have to earn it and keep your head up and keep working. Our team’s going to have to continue to learn how to play when we’re down, to face adversity and to have character. Today was a good example of that and it was nice to see us come out on top.”
Despite the early deficit, St. John’s outshot the Musketeers, 9-3, in the first half and 21-5 on the match overall. Xavier (3-2-1) had earned results this season against No. 3 Akron and No. 17 Kentucky.
“The fans were unbelievable tonight,” Petridis said. “Right from the start we could hear them and they deserve it. We’re trying to give them everything we can and we hope that they can continue to come throughout the year to support us.”
Xavier drew first blood in the 12th minute as Samson Sergi headed a throw-in forward in the box to Karsen Henderlong, who slipped one into the lower right corner of the net.
St. John’s finally found the back of the net in the 57th minute, as Petridis sent a corner kick to the far post for Duarte, who headed it past goalkeeper Matthew Rosenberg for a 1-1 tie.
Following three more close calls for the Johnnies over the next 10 minutes, Petridis came away with a brilliant individual effort to break the deadlock. After causing a turnover in the midfield, Petridis dribbled to the top of the box and sent a right-footed strike to the lower-left hand corner for a 2-1 lead.
Petridis put the icing of the cake in the 87th minute, winning a 50-50 ball on the other side of midfield before taking it the whole way himself and beating Rosenberg for the second time.
The Johnnies have scored three or more goals in four games. Prior to Friday night, the Red Storm had not recorded four three-goal games in a season since 2012.
St. John’s will travel to one of the nation’s toughest road environments, facing off against the defending national champion University of Maryland in College Park, Md. Monday at 7 p.m.