SYRACUSE, N.Y. (SYRACUSE ATHLETICS) –
No. 3 seed Syracuse men’s soccer looks to get one step closer to the NCAA National Championship, as the Orange take on Creighton in the NCAA College Cup Semifinal on Friday, Dec. 9. Kickoff at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C. is scheduled for 6 p.m. and fans can catch all the action on ESPNU.
Syracuse makes its second NCAA College Cup appearance in program history, both under the direction of head coach Ian McIntyre. The Orange danced all the way to the College Cup in 2015, losing to Clemson on penalties after neither team could score in regulation or in overtime in Kansas City. Syracuse looks to secure its first national championship appearance.
The Orange enter Friday’s match with a record of 17-2-4, tying the program record for wins in a single-season. Syracuse is 1-0 against BIG EAST teams this season, beating UConn 5-0 on Sept. 5. The Orange look to become just the second team in ACC history to win their regular season division, conference tournament and national championship in one season. UNC was the first in 2011.
The NCAA Championship Quarterfinal was a thriller, as Syracuse outlasted Vermont 2-1, extending the Orange’s unbeaten streak to 12. Sophomore midfielder Curt Calov opened the scoring in the 11th meeting, scoring an impressive goal directly from the corner flag. After Vermont equalized in the 23rd minute, Nathan Opoku found Levonte Johnson in the 42nd minute to put Syracuse back in front. The backline of Abdi Salim, Christian Curti and Olu Oyegunle shut down the Catamount attack in the second half, as Vermont only recorded a single shot in the final 45 minutes.
Defense remains the bedrock of the 2022 squad. Syracuse has allowed 14 goals and recorded 11 shutouts this season, both second in the ACC. The Orange rank fourth nationally in goals against average (.597) and fifth in save percentage (.833).
Johnson and Opoku are two of the premier attacking threats in the nation. The two forwards have combined for 19 goals, 12 assists and 50 points. They are the highest scoring Syracuse duo since Ryan Raposo and Massimo Ferrin combined for 60 points in 2019. Johnson is the first player to hit the double-digit goal mark since Raposo in 2019.
Redshirt senior goalkeeper Russell Shealy is in the midst of a career season. The Cartersville, Georgia native has set career-highs in saves (63), shutouts (10), save percentage (.818) and goals against average (.62). Shealy has taken home All-ACC Second Team, United Soccer Coaches All-South Region Third Team and ACC Tournament MVP honors.
SCOUTING THE BLUEJAYS:
Creighton is 13-4-6 on the season, advancing to the College Cup for the first time since 2012 after winning the BIG EAST tournament to clinch an automatic bid to the NCAA Championship.
Head coach Johnny Torres is in his fourth season as head coach, going 36-25-10 during his time in Omaha. Torres led the Bluejays to the 1996 College Cup as a student-athlete.
Creighton outlasted No. 7 seed Duke 3-2 in the NCAA Championship Quarterfinals, stalling a late rally. The Bluejays beat Missouri State, No. 2 seed Washington, No. 15 Tulsa before besting the Blue Devils in the Elite Eight.
The Bluejays are the top attacking side in Division I, leading the nation in goals scored with 63. Junior Forward and first team All-BIG EAST selection Duncan McGuire leads the country in goals (22) and points (47).
Friday’s semifinal showdown is the first meeting between Syracuse and Creighton on the soccer pitch.