Syracuse men’s soccer wins first national title in penalty thriller
SU men's soccer wins first-ever national title
The Syracuse men’s soccer team secured the school’s first-ever NCAA soccer championship in a title match that went to double overtime and a 7-6 penalty kick shootout against the Indiana Hoosiers.
The scoring opened up in the 23rd minute of the match when Syracuse took a 1-0 lead on yet another goal off the boot of Nathan Opoku. The forward received the ball at the top of the box from his attacking partner Levonte Johnson. Opoku made a quick cutback to send his marker Joey Maher onto the grass, then proceeded to curl the ball into the top left corner of the net to give the Orange an early lead.
But the Hoosiers wouldn’t go down that easily. After receiving a corner kick in the 31st minute, Indiana’s Patrick McDonald took the ball off a volley and hammered it past Syracuse goalkeeper Russell Shealy to tie things up at 1-1.
The game was tied for only a minute before Syracuse took the lead once again. Opoku sent a cross into the middle of the Indiana box, where teammate Curt Calov was waiting eagerly. Calov set the ball down in front of him with an excellent first touch, then flicked the ball over the outstretched arm of Indiana goalkeeper J.T. Harms, giving the Orange a one-goal lead over the Hoosiers heading into the next 45 minutes of play.
Syracuse fans watching the game at the JMA Wireless Dome were pleased by the team’s first-half showing.
“I thought we looked pretty good out there,” a fan said. “The attack looked great. It sucked to give up that first goal, but thankfully we bounced right back.”
For the better part of the second half, the Orange stopped chance after chance from the Indiana offense. Then, in the 79th minute, the Hoosiers got their equalizer. Sophomore forward Samuel Sarver drew the Syracuse defenders to him on the far left side of the box, then sent a pass to an unmarked Herbert Endeley. The ball had quite a bit of pace, sending Endeley outside of the box, but he quickly balanced himself and sent the ball flying into the top corner of Shealy’s net.
After 90 minutes, the whistle signaled the end of regular time. The game went to two 10-minute halves, where each team had its fair share of scoring chances, but neither side could get the ball in the back of the net.
With the end of extra time, the game came down to who could win on penalty kicks. Unlike the Hoosiers, Syracuse had already experienced a playoff shootout, winning the ACC semifinals against Virginia off of penalties.
This experience served Orange well against Indiana. The Hoosiers started the shootout by converting their first, with Syracuse doing the same. The Orange had a chance to swing momentum in their favor after Shealy gobbled up Karsen Henderlong’s attempt. Still, Jeorgio Kocevski could not beat the long frame of Indiana goalkeeper J.T. Harms. Indiana then converted their next five penalty kicks, with Syracuse matching them on everyone.
On Indiana’s eighth attempt, Shealy got the jump on Maouloune Goumballe’s shot, diving towards the right post to make a crucial save.
As his teammates and the crowd cheered on, Syracuse captain Amferny Sinclair walked up to the box. The pressure was all on him. And the captain delivered in the most crucial moment of his young career. Sinclair rifled the ball into the top right corner, too accurate and too powerful for the arm of J.T. Harms to reach.
Sinclair triumphantly ran out of the box alone for only a few seconds before being mobbed by his teammates. As the Syracuse players were feeling the thrill of victory, the Indiana players were lying motionless on the turf as their season came to a crushing end.
Walking onto the field, Syracuse head coach Ian McIntyre consoled the Indiana players he passed by before reaching his players. McIntyre’s squad is the first Syracuse soccer team to bring home the coveted NCAA Championship trophy. In a season where each player left their heart and soul out on the pitch after every game, the victory could not be any more deserved.