The St. John’s women scored six goals in a season opener for the first time in more than 20 years. (Photo courtesy of St. John’s)

QUEENS, N.Y. – Playing against outside competition for the first time in nearly 500 days, the St. John’s University women started the 2021 spring season with a bang, downing the University at Albany, 6-1, at Belson Stadium Sunday afternoon.

The Red Storm’s six goals were the most ever scored by St. John’s in a season opener and the program’s highest game total since scoring nine times at Robert Morris Sept. 3, 2000.

“I knew we would be pretty good going forward, but obviously you’re never expecting six goals,” said head coach Ian Stone, who began his 27th season at the helm of the Red Storm women’s soccer program. “I think some of the finishes were fantastic and we have a lot of depth in the attacking third which means that we can rotate players through and I think that made a difference on the day. I’m surprised in that I don’t think that was a fair score, but we’ll certainly take it.”

Six different Johnnies found the back of the net while eight recorded at least one point.

Ava Collins, a freshman from New Zealand, was sensational in her collegiate debut, scoring once and assisting on two goals.

Jessica Garziano tallied a goal and an assist for the Red Storm (1-0-0) while Brooke Boyd, Maia Cabrera, Addison Hornsey and Zsani Kajan also found the back of the net.

Freshman Nicole Gordon added two assists in her St. John’s debut while Alex Madden also picked up an assist.

Goalkeeper Naya Lipkens recorded the win, making two stops in 81 minutes. Jordan Kamp played the final nine minutes.

Shots were fairly even considering the final score, as St. John’s took 11 tries to the Great Danes’ eight.

Collins recorded the game’s first scoring chance in the eighth minute, heading a Garziano corner kick off the crossbar.

About 10 minutes after her near-miss, Collins started a sequence that resulted in the first goal, playing a ball in from the right side into the box for Garziano. The sophomore turned and fired it into the back of the cage, putting the Johnnies ahead 1-0 in the 19th minute.

Collins got another good look at the goal in the 28th minute, taking a pass from Kajan and firing a shot on target, but it was smothered UAlbany keeper Andrea Leitner.

The Red Storm extended its lead to a 2-0 in the 37th minute, as Collins played another ball from the right side in toward Madden near the top of the six-yard box. With a defender at her back, Madden moved it up to a wide open Cabrera, who rocketed home a shot past the diving Leitner.

The hosts did not rest, adding one more before the intermission. Madden began the sequence with a corner kick toward the top of the box where it was headed forward by Gordon. The ball eventually found its way to the head of Boyd, who buried it home for the first goal of her collegiate career.

UAlbany got on the board in the 64th minute, as Christina Cernuto played a ball in front for Olivia Piraino, who sent it into the lower right corner of the cage.

The Red Storm responded just two minutes later, as Gordon slid a pass on the ground from the right side all the way across the box to a waiting Hornsey, who unleashed on it and made it a 4-1 game.

Kajan and Collins would add on to the St. John’s lead in the 76th and 86th minutes, respectively. Kajan, the reigning Big East offensive player of the year, took a pass from Garziano before creating space and beating the keeper on the far side. Collins’ goal resulted from a brilliant individual effort following an UAlbany turnover in its own zone.

St. John’s will return to action at Belson Stadium on Thursday, Feb. 25, at 3 p.m. when it hosts Sacred Heart.