Men's soccer

Syracuse gearing up to host first home Big East tournament game in program history

Shijing Wang | Staff Photographer

Ted Cribley and Syracuse will host Notre Dame in a Big East quarterfinal matchup this Saturday at 7 p.m.

Ian McIntyre told himself that any focus on seasons to come would detract from the season at hand. So before this season began, the Syracuse head coach purged his mind of the school’s impending move to the Atlantic Coast Conference.

“The ACC is a long way off for us,” McInytre said after SU’s home opener in August. “We’re just happy to play out this season and see where it takes us.”

This season, a Syracuse team picked to finish last in the Big East went to its first conference tournament in seven years. And with the ACC shift looming at the end of this unexpected run, McIntyre’s team can’t help but feel nostalgic about playing in the conference it will soon leave behind.

On Saturday, the Orange (12-5, 5-3 Big East) will host Notre Dame (13-3-1, 5-2-1) at SU Soccer Stadium at 7 p.m. for its first home Big East tournament game in program history. The next round of games is slated for Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J.

Mark Brode, a senior and proud member of Syracuse’s “last crew in the Big East,” said he had mixed emotions about the move to the new conference. He expects to feel all those emotions on Saturday night, when he steps on the field at SU Soccer Stadium for what could be his last collegiate game and his team’s last conference game.

“It’s awesome because the ACC’s a great conference, but at the same time it’s kind of sad,” said Brode. “We’re always getting little jabs from the freshmen and stuff about how we won’t get to play in the ACC, (but) I’m a Big East guy.”

Brode and other seniors won’t get the chance to experience playing in an ACC conference game. And other recent conference accomplishments just magnify their Big East allegiances. After all, just a season ago, their team was the second-worst in the conference.

SU is near the top of that same conference just one season later. McIntyre’s team now boasts five conference wins after winning just one conference game during the first two years of his tenure. And prior to Friday’s road loss to St. John’s in the regular-season finale, SU had a chance to win its division for the first time ever.

McInytre said he was proud to give his senior players one last memorable season in the Big East and admitted he owed them for guiding the new direction of his ACC-bound program.

“They’ve been through a lot over the last couple of years,” McInytre said. “The hard work and the commitment that the seniors have put in allowed us to take some small but very positive steps as we try to establish ourselves regionally and nationally.”

It’ll be up to younger players to continue the program’s momentum and visibility in a new and tougher conference.

Freshmen contributors like goalkeeper Alex Bono, and midfielders Jordan Vale and Stefanos Stamoulacatos, were perfectly positioned to be the catalysts of a new conference contender. Now they’ll have to take on national powers Maryland, North Carolina and Wake Forest as potential ACC opponents in 2013.

The rejuvenated SU program will face its share of challenges next season. But the closest opponent isn’t an ACC one, and as Saturday’s game against Notre Dame nears, senior and team captain Ted Cribley has one goal — sending Syracuse to its next conference as Big East champions.

“It would be great for me, and for Syracuse it would be even better,” Cribley said. “(Winning the conference) would be a great way to send off the team from the Big East into the ACC.”

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