Andrew Renneisen | Staff PhotographerMen's soccer
Syracuse continues historic season with matchup against No. 6 Georgetown in Sweet 16
Syracuse needed an improbable comeback to keep its season alive after digging itself a two-goal deficit against No. 14 Virginia Commonwealth.
After goals from Louis Clark and Stefanos Stamoulacatos tied the game, Syracuse completed the comeback when Clark delivered the dagger in the 108th minute in the second overtime.
“To go two goals down early, I thought we had a real opportunity to fold,” head coach Ian McIntyre said. “But the guys didn’t. That’s been the story of their season.”
Syracuse (14-6) squares off against No. 6 Georgetown (18-3-1) in the Sweet 16 at North Kehoe Field in Washington D.C. at 1 p.m. Sunday Nov. 25. Prior to this season, the Orange had never won a game in the NCAA tournament. After two exhilarating victories, it will have a chance to earn a spot in the quarterfinals and extend its historic season against the Hoyas.
“It would be a huge win,” Syracuse defender Nick Bibbs said. “Two Big East teams collide in the NCAA tournament. It shows how we’ve really grown as a program.”
Though Georgetown had never qualified for the Sweet 16 either, the Hoyas have been one of the most complete teams in the NCAA this season. Carried by dynamic duo Steve Neumann and Brandon Allen, GU finished 6-2 in the Big East.
Georgetown has won four in a row against SU, including a 2-0 triumph in 2009. McIntyre knows his team will be in for a stiff challenge Sunday.
“We know they’ve got a real quality team on both sides of the ball” McIntyre said. “We realize we’ll have to be at our very best.”
Despite the Hoyas’ edge on paper, Bibbs said Syracuse is preparing diligently to come away with the momentous win.
“We want to make sure we match their intensity,” Bibbs said. “If we match the other team’s intensity we can beat anyone.”
That motto has proved effective so far for SU. After sneaking into the tournament, the Orange has been the underdog in each of its first two games.
But Syracuse hasn’t been phased.
A well-balanced attack has led Syracuse the entire season. From Jordan Vale to Lars Muller, SU has a wide range of players that can convert in crunch time.
Clark was the hero against VCU. Without Clark’s late-game fireworks, the Syracuse players would have had Thanksgiving at home, instead of as a team. The players gathered in high spirits Thursday afternoon with one common goal for this weekend.
“(Clark) found a way to score two important goals,” McIntyre said. “He’s been the catalyst for a lot of what we’ve done this season. He has that energy and that drive and that will that’s contagious. We feed off a lot of that.”
Clark called the double-overtime goal the greatest moment he’s ever had on a soccer field.
“It means so much to so many people,” Clark said. “We’re doing something that no one’s ever done before. Hopefully we can continue it on Sunday.”
In addition to the buzz swirling because of the implications of the game, Clark can’t wait to renew the Syracuse-Georgetown rivalry.
“We’ve been to the basketball games,” Clark said. “We’ve seen how much it means to the fans. We know it’s going to be a competitive battle. They’re going to make it hard for us.”
After a week of grueling practices and tactical adjustments, the Orange will get a chance to advance to a matchup in the quarterfinals with Tulsa or San Diego.
Syracuse will have to beat favored Georgetown to get there and to keep the season alive again.
“It’s been unbelievable,” Clark said. “No one wants it to stop. We feel like there’s still more football to be played.”
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