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MORNING BRIEFING: St. John's makes rapid climb
by Paul Kennedy, September 23rd, 2008 8:30AM



It's been a long way back for New Yorker Neal Kitson. He started in goal for Dowling when it won a Division II title in 2004 and then transferred to Division I St. John's.

After red-shirting one season and serving as giant Jason Landers' understudy for two seasons, Kitson has finally gotten a chance to start full-time for the Red Storm, who were unranked when the 2008 season began but have moved up to the No. 6 spot in this week's Soccer America Top 25.

Kitson's 6-foot frame is hardly the imposing barrier that the 6-foot-7 Landers presented, but he has been flawless, shutting out all seven opponents he's faced this fall.

Against Notre Dame on Friday night, Kitson made a career-high 11 saves as the Red Storm battled the Irish to a 0-0 draw. Two days later, St. John's beat Marquette, 1-0, in overtime to extend Kitson's shutout streak to 742 minutes, dating back to the 2007 season.

"He was very poised and did a tremendous job of not allowing any rebounds," St. John's coach Dr. Dave Masur said after the Notre Dame game.

Kitson's play in goal has been key for the Red Storm, who have only scored 10 goals in eight games. Former U.S. U-17 Ryan Soroka leads St. John's with three goals.

Dutchman Bjorn de Hoop, who converted the overtime penalty kick on Sunday, is one of eight first-year Johnnies who played against Marquette.

Costa Rican-born Walter Hines and 5-foot-5 Connor Lade, who has started every game, are two local products of the
New York Red Bulls academy program. Floridians Christian Gonzalez and Pablo Punyed played together for Miami FC Kendall.

Sverre Wegge Gundhus and Joakim Helland arrived from Norway, while Tafadzwa Chiduku is originally from Zimbabwe.

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