For every action by St. John's, there was an opposite and greater Villanova reaction Saturday afternoon and the host Red Storm dropped its second straight men's lacrosse game, 13-11, to the Big East leaders.
Playing from behind most of the game, St. John's (7-4, 2-3) clawed its way back to tie twice and get within one goal four times. Whenever there was a Red Storm spurt, a Villanova goal awaited.
"I just thought we couldn't get over the hump," coach Jason Miller said. "You have to give Villanova credit. They've been in a lot of close games and they weren't going to panic."
Eric Gartner, John Kluh and Max Hart scored three goals each for Villanova (5-6, 4-0), which welcomed freshman goalie Harry Burke's first start with 47 shots.
"I saw a lot of promise from Harry," Miller said of Burke's 13 saves. "I thought he performed admirably."
His efforts gave St. John's a chance to stay in the game, but the attack, led by junior Kieran McArdle, couldn't get going.
Managing to answer every Storm goal with one of its own, the Wildcats put St. John's away with a 4-1 run in the third quarter to take a 12-9 lead, the lone Red Storm tally from McArdle with 7:38 remaining. Gartner, Kluh and Hart, the hat-trick heroes for Villanova, also scored in that stretch.
Villanova bossed possession from the start, wiping away St. John's only lead, 1-0, with four unanswered goals in a little more than three minutes in the first quarter. After two early saves on Villanova's first two shots, Burke looked rattled.
The pressure kept mounting as St. John's continued to lose the faceoff battles. Villanova won 17 of a possible 27 on the day.
"The faceoff battle was super important," Miller said. "Villanova was excellent. We needed to tighten things up."
All three of Kevin Cernuto's goals came in the first half. After his third, goals from Alex Lagodich and Ryan Fitzgerald tied the game up at 6 in a 2:49 span, but Jack Rice put Villanova up one going into halftime.
"It was very frustrating especially when you can't get possession," Cernuto said. "There were some ground balls we should've picked up and some possessions we should've held on to came back to bite us."
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