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National Champions! Catching Up With Men’s Soccer Head Coach Ian McIntyre on the ‘’Cuse Conversations’ Podcast
But despite those lean early times, from the moment he assumed the role of head coach, McIntyre was focused on building up the Orange’s men’s soccer program, and on Dec. 12, his team reached the pinnacle.
When senior Amferny Sinclair buried his penalty kick shot high over the outstretched arms of Indiana University’s goalie, the Orange (19-2-4) claimed their first national championship, outlasting Indiana 7-6 in penalty kicks to win the College Cup.
The seeds for this successful postseason run were planted last year, and with many returning student-athletes who endured the growing pains of losing six one-goal games, McIntyre’s team won 11 more matches than it did last year, including sweeping the Atlantic Coast Conference’s (ACC) regular and postseason championships.
“We really started thinking about doing something not just magical, but legendary when we drove back from Clemson as ACC champions. It’s been a lot of fun to watch video and have videos shared with us of how much enjoyment there was on the field,” McIntyre says. “The drama and emotions that went with securing a national championship via a penalty shootout—it’s been a whirlwind the last few weeks. Very humbling to see just how everyone has embraced this terrific group of young men. And it was very special to bring a national championship back to Syracuse.”
McIntyre relives the night Syracuse was crowned champions of the collegiate soccer world, shares how his student-athletes and coaches celebrated their national title, recounts when he felt his team was capable of making a deep run in the postseason, discusses the vital role support from the campus community and alumni played in the team’s postseason run, and more!
Note: This conversation was edited for brevity and clarity.
Check out episode 128 of the “’Cuse Conversations” podcast featuring Ian McIntyre. A transcript [PDF] is also available.
01When did you start to think that this team had the ability and the talent to go on a deep run and possibly win it all?
We had good results last year and felt we had a good group coming back. We started the year very well, including defeating Penn State, the reigning Big 10 champions early in the year.
Then for our first two ACC games we hosted Notre Dame, the reigning ACC champions, and we played well against them. We then played Clemson, the reigning national champions, and to get a result and win at Clemson in the fashion we played showed that character and toughness.
We really started thinking about doing something not just magical but legendary when we drove back from Clemson and as ACC champions, beating them for the second time this year. We knew we had a tough draw in the tournament, with Cornell, Vermont and Clemson on our side of the bracket. But we knew we didn’t have to beat the other 47 teams, you just have to beat the team in front of you. And that’s what we were focused on.
02What was going through your head as the national championship game went to penalty kicks?
There’s not a lot a coach can do other than hopefully provide a little bit of calmness. Penalty kicks are about trusting the group and you pick your shooters, you have a conversation with your team about who’s physically, mentally and emotionally ready to take a penalty.
Then you trust your guys, you put them out there and you tell them that you love them and you wish them all the best. You trust them to step up, and certainly in the biggest of moments on the biggest stage, our guys stepped up and showed that courage to want to perform. The moment certainly wasn’t too big for them.
03With the score tied at 6-all in penalty kicks, senior co-captain Amferny Sinclair buried the national championship-clinching goal into the upper middle portion of the goal. What was it like in the moments after Sinclair's game-winning goal?
It’s been a lot of fun to watch video and have videos shared with us of how much enjoyment there was on the field. The drama and the emotions that went with securing a national championship via a penalty shootout—it’s been a whirlwind the last few weeks.
It’s very humbling to see just how everyone has embraced this terrific group of young men. And it was very special to bring a national championship back to Syracuse.
04How has it been to celebrate with the fans of the men's soccer program, and what role did fan support play this year?
We pulled into the Lally Athletics Complex at 2:30 in the morning. It’s snowing, it’s 9 degrees out and you see Jesse Edwards and members of the men’s basketball team just wanting to be part of that moment with our boys. It was very special to be with our guys, who are a family, and to see our crazy Syracuse fan base out there welcoming us home.
To be able to share this with a fan base that has been right there with us every step of the way, braving the elements and the frigid conditions out at the soccer stadium during our playoff run, they’ve not just been there in attendance, they participate in the matches and got behind the team and that’s a big part of why we went on this run.
05In your first two seasons, your teams won a combined five games. This year, you won the University's first men's soccer national championship. Why is Syracuse University the perfect place for you to coach?
All good players want an opportunity to play with and compete against the best players in the country. It’s the same for coaches, too. When I was fortunate to be afforded the opportunity to come to Syracuse, we played in the Big East, and while it was difficult to upgrade from the Big East in soccer, the ACC features the best of the best and you want an opportunity to test yourself and measure yourself against the best.
That goes for the student-athletes and our coaches. We take tremendous pride in competing against the gauntlet that is the ACC week in and week out, and we’ve got a team that has a chance to compete at the national level. To be surrounded with the caliber of people we have in Syracuse, this is a very special place to come and work each day.
Note: This conversation was edited for brevity and clarity.