St. John's has shot at first playoff berth

St. John's University lacrosse player Kiernan McArdle during

St. John's University lacrosse player Kiernan McArdle during 2012 game action. (Credit: St. John's Photos)

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In the eighth year of its revived program, St. John's is within reach of the one significant goal on every lacrosse team's wish list: playing in May.

St. John's has had a difficult path as a member of the Big East, where the obstacles come in ranked programs such as Notre Dame and Syracuse. The first hurdle is making the four-team Big East Tournament, where the winner gains an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. That is the ultimate prize and one that St. John's never has captured.

Beating Georgetown on Saturday put the Red Storm (6-4, 2-2) in fourth place.

"We haven't made it yet,'' said sophomore attack Kieran McArdle, who attended Connetquot and has 15 goals and 17 assists. "But beating Georgetown was a big step going toward our goal, which is playing in May and getting a chance to play in that Big East Tournament.''

A number of possibilities remain, but St. John's controls one big factor.

"I've been telling my team the best possible scenario is that we win the next two [Big East] games and we don't have to worry about it,'' coach Jason Miller said. No. 12 Villanova and Providence remain on the regular-season schedule.

Earlier in the season, the Red Storm lost to Syracuse by a goal and led at halftime against Notre Dame in the Big City Classic.

"We came out strong, were up 4-3 at the half, had just a few mistakes on offense and defense and then they just started to pull away,'' McArdle said of the 13-6 outcome. "But we feel if we can touch up on those mistakes, we could play them tough.''

Miller added: "A year ago, we led Notre Dame in the fourth quarter when they were ranked No. 1. We gave up a lead against Villanova when they were No. 7. We've been in enough of those where there's no solace in close anymore. The silver lining is that we know we can play at a very high level when we play well. The bar has been set for us, we have to find a way to hit that bar on a consistent basis.''

Fifth-year senior midfielder Terence Leach, who played at St. Dominic High School, has seen the program progress during his tenure.

"My first year, we struggled mightily at 2-11,'' said Leach, who has 17 goals and two assists. "We are more resilient as a team now. We come to the Big East and we come to St. John's to play the best week in and week out. If you look at our schedule and resume so far, we've been in almost every game that we played.''

Miller wants to make the conference tournament and go from there, saying, "I'd be satisfied with not being satisfied.''

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