Cary, N.C. — Lets set the scene. It is 6:00 p.m. and a cool 45 degrees in North Carolina. There is pryo going off behind you as “The Star-Spangled Banner” echoes throughout WakeMed Soccer Park. You’re standing on the pitch getting ready to play in your first ever National Championship. That is exactly what the Syracuse Orange went through on Monday night.
The Orange were back in the College Cup for the first time since 2015, when they lost to Clemson in the semi-finals. That game would end in a scoreless tie and be decided on penalty kicks. This script would get a few altercations in Cary, including the team the Orange would take on.
The Indiana Hoosiers were making their recording-breaking 17th appearance in the National Championship, one of the most impressive runs that the soccer world has seen. Entering the game, the Hoosiers had not given up a goal in any tournament game. 360 minutes, zero goals. That would be because of JT Harms in net, making nine saves through the first four games for the Hoosiers.
The Orange would break the shutout streak for the Hoosiers, scoring when Nathan Opoku would make some pretty moves inside the box and take a shot with his left foot, finding the back of the net. Make it 1-0 Orange in the 24th minute.
About eight minutes later, the Hoosiers would tie the game up. Patrick McDonald found the set piece in the air and sent it past Russell Shealy. But the game would not stay tied for long. Just 86 seconds later, Curt Calov would take the cross and settle the ball before snapping it past the goalkeeper.
Syracuse would hold the lead all way until the 80th minute. Indiana’s Herbert Endeley would rifle a shot past the outstretched arms of Shealy into the top left corner of the net. A winner was not in sight as the game would remain tied all the way to the 90th minute. Overtime.
With both teams visibly exhausted throughout the entire overtime periods, it still would not be enough to determine a National Champion. Just like that Friday night in 2015 the overtime periods would end and the Orange would head to PKs.
Here are the Full PKs from the NCAA Twitter:
The two teams would match each other through the first seven attempts, each having a miss in the 2nd round. Maouloune Goumballe would step up in the 8th round for the Hoosiers. He would try and go just to the left of Shealy, but Shealy would take a step to his left and a dive to make the stop and put Syracuse in position to win the title with a goal.
The Orange faithful did not know who was going to step up for the chance to win a National Championship. As the fans and team settled from the energy of the save, team captain Amferny Sinclair would emerge from the midfield and make his way to the PK spot.
With the title on the line, he would approach from six yards away. Sinclair would take the shot to the right side of the net. AJ Harms would guess correctly, but what he did not guess was that Sinclair would go high instead of low.
WE ARE NATIONAL CHAMPIONS 🏆🏆
For the first time in program history, the Orange are NCAA National Champions, beating Indiana 7-6 in the penalty shootout!
WE LOVE THIS TEAM 🧡🧡#DareToDream pic.twitter.com/74WsRgvSjS— Syracuse Men’s Soccer (@CuseMSOC) December 13, 2022
The PK attempt would soar past Harms and hit the back of the net securing the first National Championship in program history for the Syracuse Orange. It would be the 80th National Championship in school history.
Shealy was named the 2022 Men’s College Cup Defensive Most Outstanding Player, while Opoku earned Most Outstanding Offensive Player. They were joined on the All-Tournament Team by Levonte Johnson, Curt Calov, Christian Curti and Jeorgio Kocevski.
The celebration would be plentiful for the Orange, who were projected to finish fourth out of six in the ACC Atlantic division. Coach McIntyre talked about the success of his team after the game with the ESPNU team.
Back in Syracuse, the Dome was hosting a watch party with the men’s basketball team playing. As the stars would align, PKs would happen during halftime of the hoops game. Sinclair would put the game away with the entire attention of JMA Wireless Dome watching.
Syracuse Graduate Student Karl Winter captured the moment on twitter:
Syracuse finished the season 19-2-4. On their path to the National Championship, they would upset #1 Clemson on the road and only lose one ranked matchup all season. In the NCAA tournament, they wouldn’t leave Syracuse until the semi-finals, taking down Penn in OT, getting revenge on Cornell, and then beating Vermont to head to Cary. In the semis, Syracuse would go back and forth with Creighton before winning 3-2.
Here are the full Cinematic highlights of the contest from NCAA Soccer on Twitter: