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NCAA Dec 10, 2022

Syracuse reaches NCAA Men’s College Cup Final for first time in program history

CARY, N.C. – Syracuse men’s soccer has advanced to the NCAA National Championship game for the first time in program history, outlasting Creighton in a 3-2 thriller in the NCAA College Cup Semifinal at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C. (Box Score)

After both sides traded goals in the first 86 minutes of action, Syracuse’s All-American duo of Nathan Opoku and Levonte Johnson sent Syracuse to the national championship match, as Opkou found Johnson for the match-winning goal in the 86th minute.

Syracuse has won 18 matches this season, the most in a single-season in program history.

“That was a game that was worthy of a College Cup,” head coach Ian McIntyre said after the match. “Two teams got after it today, thankful for the toughness on our team to get us by this match.”

SCORING SUMMARY:

HOW IT HAPPENED:

The match began with an end-to-end pace, as both sides pressed and looked to find openings and chances. After Creighton took the first five shots of the match, McIntyre adjusted the strategy, bringing off junior midfielder Lorenzo Boselli for junior defender Jackson Glenn. That shift stabilized the match allowing Syracuse to maintain possession.

‘Cuse took a 1-0 lead with under 10 minutes to play in the first half. Christian Curti‘s first goal of the season couldn’t have come at a better time. He found the back of the goal on a corner kick from sophomore Curt Cavlov at 36:06.

With just four minutes to go in the first half, Creighton almost responded with an equalizer. Bluejays forward and BIG EAST Player of the Year Duncan McGuire spun off Abdi Salim, leaving him one-on-one with Syracuse goalkeeper Russell Shealy. The nation’s leading scorer ripped a shot, but Shealy got a finger tip on the ball to preserve the Syracuse lead.

The first half ended with Creighton outshooting Syracuse 9-5, as Shealy saved four shots in the first 45 minutes, more than any of his previous NCAA Tournament matches this season.

Creighton evened the match four minutes and 18 seconds into the second half when McGuire fought off a physical challenge from Salim and slotted the chance by Shealy.

The Orange responded immediately, pulling ahead in the 51st minute. Junior midfielder Jeorgio Kocevski pounced on a loose ball in the midfield, and immediately spotted Opoku making a run behind the Bluejay defense. The Accra, Ghana native took a touch and slotted the chance past Creighton keeper Paul Kruse.

Creighton once again tied things up when Alfie Pope scored on a set piece in the 64th minute.

As the clock ticked, the two teams exchanged opportunities but it was the Orange who broke the stalemate for the final time.

Opoku controlled the ball down the wing, dribbling by multiple defenders toward the byline. The All-American spotted Johnson free at the back post, lofting the ball to his attacking partner. Johnson tapped the balloon in, sending ‘Cuse to the College Cup Final.

The match finished with Creighton outshooting Syracuse 15-12. Shealy provided one of his best performances in a Syracuse shirt, saving seven shots, a season high for the Cartersville, Georgia native.

Syracuse will face No. 13 seed Indiana at 6 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 12 at 6 p.m. at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C. Fans can catch all the action on ESPNU.

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