Ziniu Chen | Staff PhotographerMen's soccer
McIntyre, Syracuse players reflect on best season in program history
Jordan Vale unleashed a shot from well outside the box early in the second half against Colgate back in early September.
Syracuse had already scored four goals in the game, including three in the previous five minutes and one less than 45 seconds before.
Vale watched as the ball swooped into the top right corner of the net. Syracuse went on to punish Colgate 6-0, the first of many statement wins for the Orange on the season.
That was when senior Mark Brode knew this team had something special. He knew this year would be a considerable improvement from his previous three seasons at Syracuse.
Little did Brode know, though, that the Orange would go on to finish second in the Red division, host the first postseason game in school history and win two NCAA tournament games. Syracuse shattered preseason expectations and ended up constructing the most accomplished season in school history.
“The past couple years, it goes unsaid that we didn’t do too well,” Brode said. “I think basically that would have been the normal thing — for us to finish in last place again — but we just wanted to prove something this year.”
That was exactly what they did.
“Ultimately we had a desire to be better than last year,” SU defender Chris Makowski said. “None of us liked that feeling. We wanted to prove people wrong.”
As the mindset of the team evolved, nightmarishly brutal losses never manifested like they did last year. Instead, painful defeats transformed into exhilarating wins, and the fan base continued to grow as the team piled on win after win.
“We realized we had a close-knit, hard-working group that brought everything they had day in, day out,” McIntyre said. “When that came together it translated to results on the pitch.”
After a close loss to NCAA tournament-bound Niagara, Syracuse outscored its opponents 15-0 over the next three games, including the lopsided win over Colgate.
Shifting into Big East mode with a mission to flip the script entirely, the Orange finished the year 5-3 in conference.
In Brode’s three-year stint prior to the 2012 campaign, the team won three total Big East games. Chemistry rose to an all-time high, as Vale emerged to become a prolific goal-scorer and became opponents’ worst nightmare.
Ted Cribley, Tony Asante and freshman goalie Alex Bono continued to shine, as the Orange continued to win.
After monumental wins over South Florida and Villanova, Syracuse earned a spot in the Big East tournament for the first time since 2005.
SU lost 4-2 to eventual No. 1-seed Notre Dame and anxiously awaited its fate as the selection show continued to get closer.
Syracuse players sat inside the Carmelo K. Anthony Basketball Center on Nov. 12 — their destiny moments away from being revealed.
They made it. Just barely.
“I think we deserved to be in the tournament, but we kind of squeaked in,” Brode said. “I heard we were one of the bubble teams. We were kind of nervous. We thought it was 50-50 — pretty much a flip of a coin.”
Once the Orange qualified for the tournament, the players knew they didn’t want the journey to stop abruptly. They wanted to embark on a run they’d never forget.
“Coming into the tournament we were all really excited,” Makowski said. “Even though we were underdogs and no one expected anything from us, we went out and proved we deserved to be there.”
The Orange knocked off favored Cornell 1-0, winning the first NCAA tournament game in school history. Then, just three days later, Syracuse came back from a 2-0 hole against No. 14-seed Virginia Commonwealth, capped by a dagger by Louis Clark in the 108th minute.
“Louis’ goal was great,” Brode said. “I think that was one of my favorite moments here at Syracuse. When he scored we all just sprinted on the field.”
Syracuse’s incredible run came to an end with a gut-wrenching loss to Georgetown in penalty kicks, but McIntyre said his players shouldn’t dwell on the loss.
He knows his players are devastated at the moment, but he said when they look back down the road and reflect, they’ll realize this season was truly one for the ages.
“It was just continuing to push forward, and for that I’m extremely proud of this group,” McIntyre said. “When they finally take a big breath, I think the guys will take a lot of pride in what they’ve accomplished this year.”
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