Last Monday Night
Monday evening was a busy one for Syracuse athletics. SU men’s basketball (7-4) hosted Monmouth (1-10) inside the JMA Wireless Dome at 8 pm. A couple hours earlier in Cary, North Carolina, Syracuse men’s soccer had a much bigger challenge – the NCAA national championship game.
Standing in the way of the Orange’s first national title in program history was perennial heavyweight Indiana. The Hoosiers have eight national championships – a ninth would tie them with St. Louis for first in the NCAA.
However, the Hoosiers’ level of play in the 2022 NCAA Tournament is arguably more daunting than their championship history. Entering Monday night, Indiana had not allowed a single goal in its preceding four matches.
Yet, this did not phase the Orange. Nathan Opoku, who transferred to SU from Lindsey Wilson College this past offseason, opened the scoring in the Final Four game against Creighton. He did the same on Monday night, stinging a shot over the outstretched arms of a goaltender who hadn’t allowed a goal in a month.
Syracuse held a 2-1 lead late into the second half. However, Indiana truly responded like a champion with its back against the wall. In the 80th minute, Herbert Endeley scored the equalizer for IU.
The deadlock lasted through regulation and two overtime sessions, which brought about penalty kicks. After each side connected on four of their first five attempts, the shootout became sudden death. In the seventh round of the shootout, SU goaltender Russell Shealy made another stop. This set up an opportunity for a championship-winning PK.
Shealy would later tell the media he was surprised to look up and see the next player to take a penalty for the Orange was their captain – Amferny Sinclair.
“I was like – ‘why is Amferny taking this?’” Shealy said. “But, I mean, he’s our captain for a reason. He’s calm, cool and collected.”
Calm, cool, and collected, indeed – Sinclair buried his penalty kick in the top right corner to give Syracuse its first soccer national title. The senior midfielder said postgame that it felt like destiny.
“I started feeling like I might have a chance to take [the game-winning PK]... right after we went to the fifth penalty, I started to think like – ok, I might have a chance to take one,” Sinclair said. “I even told the guys, I don’t want to be that guy, but I just had the feeling that I would score the winning penalty.”
Back inside the JMA Dome, a watch party of fans attending the men’s basketball game erupted while watching the penalty kick shootout on a video board behind the court. For SU fans at the NCAA Championship in Cary, NC, those watching inside the Dome, and all others following along from home, December 12th is a date that’ll be remembered for a long time.