Syracuse, N.Y. — The Syracuse University men’s soccer team will continue to nurse all the comforts of home while taking a journey unprecedented in the annals of program history.
That was assured late Sunday afternoon when Boston College stunned favored Georgetown by advancing on penalty kicks in an NCAA Tournament third-round game. The upset meant that Syracuse will play its first-ever tournament quarterfinal game on its own field when the Eagles visit 2 p.m. Saturday.
SU (15-5-3) took care of its own business handily by beating visiting Seattle 3-1 in a third-round contest Sunday. Had Georgetown won, the Orange would have visited the Hoyas in the Elite Eight.
Now it gets a rematch with the Eagles, who beat visiting Syracuse 2-1 in the Orange’s final regular season game on Oct. 30. The winner of that contest advances to the final four in Kansas City.
“We realize that we’re a pretty good soccer team,” said Orange coach Ian McIntyre, speaking before the BC-Georgetown game was over. “We’ve got guys that feel that when they go out there, when we play our brand of soccer and when we play to our strengths, I think we’re a handful for a lot of teams.”
The Eagles are unseeded while SU came into the tournament as ACC champions and the No. 6 seed overall. But Syracuse clearly enjoys playing up a national underdog image, whether real or imagined.
“We just want to prove every single time that we’re a good team and that people realize it. Some people don’t,” said Syracuse midfielder Julian Buescher.
“I feel like we’re always the underdog, even though I’m not sure we should be,” said SU defender Miles Robinson. “But I think it’s a good thing.”
Robinson, Noah Rhynhart and Kamal Miller all scored for the Orange, and Liam Callahan added two assists.
Syracuse got the 11th-seeded Redhawks’ attention early. Just 1:30 into the contest, Robinson took a beautiful corner kick by Callahan and headed a shot past Seattle goalie Shane Haworth and into the back of the net. That was the Orange’s quickest goal from the start of the game this season.
“We asked the NCAA if we could play at 9 o’clock this morning, to try to catch them,” McIntyre joked about Seattle’s potential road weariness. “Set pieces can change matches. That was a wonderful ball in (by Callahan). Miles has stepped up and scored big goals this year against some big teams.”
Rhynhart converted at the 19:43 mark for a 2-0 SU cushion. Callahan fed him a sharp pass at the 15-yard mark, and Rhynhart quickly turned and fired in a bid.
Seattle arrived in Syracuse on Thursday night and after the loss coach Pete Fewing said his team can’t use its long trip east as a crutch.
“(Syracuse) executed well and you could tell they’ve been to this spot in the tournament before,” he said. “They made it tough for us to play today. Kudos to them for playing the way they did.
“I don’t think we’d allow our guys to (worry about fatigue) at all. But we definitely were not sharp at the beginning, and that’s on us. That’s on me as a coach to make sure we’re revved up and ready to go. I think Syracuse took it to us and we weren’t ready for them.”
The Redhawks’ David Olsen beat SU goalie Hendrik Hilpert with 23:40 left in the game to slice the Orange’s edge to 2-1.
But a little more than four minutes later Miller controlled a rebound off the hands Haworth and drilled home a shot from the right side to restore SU’s lead to two goals.
“We knew that we’d have our hands full today,” McIntyre said. “I do think we’ve got a special team as well and (are) enjoying a great journey and am thankful that we came out on the other side today.
“We’ve accomplished so much in a short period of time. To go a step further for this group, there was many questions asked about this group. We had a lot of turnover from last year. We couldn’t be happier or prouder of this group. And hopefully we’ve still got some soccer left in us.”