Next fall, Syracuse will call the ACC their conference home.
So with one last season left in the Big East, the Orangemen are doing their best to finish on a high, prove their peers wrong after being voted to finish eighth in an eight-team division, all while moving the program forward as best they can.
“We know that we’re out to prove something, we know we’re not expected to finish first,” goalkeeper Alex Bono told TopDrawerSoccer.com. “It’s not something people expect from us.”
Of course, the main focus for this year’s group isn’t on the new conference they’ll play next season, but on the current campaign.
“It’s not a factor at all for our graduating seniors, they’re fully focused on the Big East and the ACC for them will not impact you college experience,” head coach Ian McIntyre told TopDrawerSoccer.com. “We’re fully committed to finish as strong as possible in those concluding weeks.”
With only four games left before the end of the regular season, Syracuse already has a 9-4-0 record (2-2-0 in the Big East). That total already gives them more wins than in the two previous seasons combined, when they won just two and three games in 2010 and 2011 respectively.
McIntyre, in his third season in charge of the program, has obviously played a significant role in steering the turnaround. But he paid tribute to the seniors currently on the team as the driving force behind this season’s results. Forwards Louis Clark and Lars Muller, along with Ted Cribley and Mark Brode have provided the experience for an otherwise young team.
Bono, who has earned the starting job in goal during his freshman season, emphasized that sentiment.
“I’ve adjusted well to the team, a lot of the upperclassmen have helped show me the way,” he said.
But Bono isn’t the only promising young freshman making contributions in his first season. Jordan Vale is the team’s leading scorer, the New Zealand youth international scoring six goals, while playing and starting in every game so far. Midfielder Stefanos Stamoulacatos, who has appearances with U.S. U18 and U19 teams, has also played significant minutes, same with sophomore Jordan Murrell.
Faced with that caliber of opponents, the team isn’t getting carried away with the positive progress they’ve made already this year.
“I think from our perspective right now it is taking it one game at a time,” McIntyre said. “We’ve got a very difficult final slate, we’ve got some tough games on the road against established programs.
“We learned a lot about our group against an outstanding Louisville team [last weekend]. It’s exciting now to embrace each new challenge on the road against a very talented USF program, and we’ve got some tricky games for the run in. We never want to talk about a postseason run, it’s trying to gain a little credibility in the Big East.”
And whatever happens, the approach will then change as Syracuse prepares for life in the ACC. Don’t be surprised if this season isn’t a flash in the pan either – with promising talent like Vale, Bono and Stamoulacatos already on board, the Orangemen are doing very well in the recruiting game. Jalen Marky and Benji Lopez, a pair of U.S. U18 MNT players, both recently made commitments to the New York program, and it’ll be something to look forward to down the road.
But for the time being, it’s all about these next four games.
“[The move to the ACC] is exciting for the program, and at the conclusion of our season we’ll start planning for that, but at this time we’re fully engrossed in an extremely competitive Big East,” McIntyre said.