Quick turnaround: Syracuse off to strong start as McIntyre rebuilds program in 3rd season
Allen Chiu | Design Editor
No two emails found in Ian McIntyre’s inbox read the same.
The surprised ones come from fans that never anticipated Syracuse’s 7-2 record. The congratulatory ones come from friends and opposing coaches that know how tough McIntyre’s job looked one year ago.
Then there are the emails from former players like Jeremy Vuolo and Nick Roydhouse that laugh at the irony. Their departures coincided with SU’s newfound success and the program’s best start since 1996.
The turnaround is anything but unexpected for those players, though. The excuse-making is no longer around Syracuse soccer. McIntyre’s message has sunk in.
“It was going to take time for ‘Mac’ to implement his philosophy,” Roydhouse said. “They needed time to mature as soccer players, but it was only a matter of time.”
After a nine-player exodus in 2010, a three-win season in 2011 and a freshman-laden roster, McIntyre has held his players accountable in every facet of the program.
Strangely and suddenly, McIntyre has become the architect of a winner.
His team wasn’t supposed to be this good this fast. But on Saturday, Syracuse won its seventh game — more than the past two years combined — in front of a raucous and orange-clad home crowd. It has posted seven shutouts in nine outings and ranks 13th in the nation in scoring offense.
Now, the same person who walked in the locker room in 2011 telling his players they could be great is telling them they’re not great in 2012. Not yet, at least.
“It’s a good problem to have,” said McIntyre. “I’m very proud of what our guys have achieved, but when I took the job, we realized that change wouldn’t happen overnight. We knew that from the beginning.”
It’s the beginning of McIntyre’s tenure that makes this start seem so improbable, though. McIntyre’s message of excuse-free soccer was often tuned out as the program won just five games combined in 2010 and 2011.
Vuolo, a former SU goalkeeper, found himself in a strange position as the losses piled up.
He said he knew that McIntyre, a successful coach at three stops since Fairfield, could lead the Orange back to prominence. After all, he had joined Roydhouse, a midfielder, in following their coach from Hartwick to Syracuse because they “both believed in what McIntyre was selling.”
The two found themselves in the minority when they entered SU’s locker room. Some players took time to adjust to McIntyre. Others, like the nine that left the team following the three-win campaign two years ago, never did.
“There was an attitude of contentment,” Vuolo said. “There was an attitude like we didn’t need to work and it just got worse and worse with no commitment to improving. Guys wouldn’t mind being bad because SU soccer was always bad and that’s just the way it is.”
McIntyre couldn’t tolerate that excuse. He let his roster dwindle to a measly 17 players after 2010, but he made sure the new players he brought in were committed to the improvement of the program.
“We needed guys in here that bought in,” McIntyre said. “We needed guys who could reverse the culture that losing brings. And I needed to work harder.”
Carl Rees said that McIntyre had always been a hard worker since his start at Fairfield. The Stags head coach would send his assistant to Toronto on weeklong recruiting trips. More often than not, McIntyre would leave in his rusty blue Toyota Corolla on short to no notice.
McIntyre said he returned to those roots this offseason.
McIntyre landed top in-state recruit Alex Bono to play goalkeeper. And his continued contact with Monroe (N.Y.) head coach Marcus DiBernardo helped SU land top junior college prospect Tony Asante from the Bronx.
“It came to the point where I wouldn’t send my players anywhere else,” DiBernardo said. “That’s how hard of a worker Ian McIntyre is.”
That new work ethic was tested this summer. Senior captain Ted Cribley cited a rigorous offseason workout program that got the team in better shape for the season. Freshman midfielder Jordan Vale said he never sweat so much getting ready for a season in his entire life.
It all came together against Colgate on Sept. 3 at SU Soccer Stadium. McIntyre said he wanted to know how his team would rebound from its first loss of the season — a one-goal defeat to an inferior Niagara team.
He got his answer after halftime. Syracuse refused to lose two games in a row, scoring five second-half goals to steamroll the Raiders 6-0.
After the game, McIntyre huddled with his team. He wanted to tell them that they should expect the kind of outcome they earned against Colgate, and not the kind that came in years past.
His players — the ones he brought to Syracuse to reshape a losing culture — bought in.
“We realize that along the road, we’re going to lose some games,” said McIntyre. “But this team has shown that they can put in the work it takes to constantly win, and winning makes everything easier.”
Published on September 25, 2012 at 2:33 am