Men's soccer: Tyler Hilliard's breakthrough performance lifts Orange

The junior nets his first two goals of the season in SU victory over the Demon Deacons.

Tyler Hilliard had yet to find the back of the net this season. His two goals Friday night, though, did more than ink his name on the stat sheet. 

Behind the junior defender’s goals in the ninth and 47th minutes and a punctuating score from Chris Nanco midway through the second half, No. 4 Syracuse (11-1-0, 4-1-0 Atlantic Coast) cruised to its seventh-straight win with a 3-1 decision over Wake Forest (6-6-0, 2-3-0 Atlantic Coast). 

Both of Hilliard’s goals, each one a header, came off set pieces from Jordan Murrell, who, after tonight, moved into a tie for fifth on SU’s all-time assists list with 19. 

“It’s great,” Hilliard said when asked about playing with Jordan. “We always get a lot of goals in set pieces because Jordan puts the ball in the right spaces at all times.” 

Murrell, a senior defender and recipient of the 2013 Syracuse Men's Soccer Coaches' Award for courage, desire, humility, and an unselfish devotion to his teammates, embraces the ability to step up and lead the team. 

“You just inherit that role,” said Murrell. “We have a great bunch of guys that you don't really need to do much of anything. You just got to go out and prove yourself every time.” 

With Murrell leading the way, the Orange defense continued to be rock solid, letting in its only goal in garbage time on a shot by Wake’s Hank Gauger that snuck in just under the crossbar. It was just the third goal the Orange yielded this year. 

“It’s seamless,” said junior goalkeeper Alex Bono, who made a key diving save early in the 14th minute on a bullet from WF’s Michael Gamble. “No matter who we have in there, no matter what point in the game, what’s going on in the game, we have a seamless defense, and it’s really comforting to know that those guys have my back.” 

Syracuse outshot Wake Forest 13-8, dominated possession the majority of the evening and continued to hold down a formidable back line. Yet, the team was grumpy after letting in the last-minute goal, according to SU head coach Ian McIntyre. Though, he did say it was “a good problem [to have] from a coaching perspective.” 

“We have a lot of respect for Wake Forest. It’s a quality team,” McIntyre said. “Gamble’s a real handful. They've got some exciting talented players, and I think (head coach Jay) Vidovich is one of the best in the game, so we realized that we’d have our hands full tonight.” 

One cause of concern following the victory was an injury to sophomore midfielder Liam Callahan, who had to be helped off the field midway through the first half. McIntyre praised Callahan’s play this season, saying he has been “one of our best players the last couple games.” He said the team will continue to re-evaluate Callahan in the coming days. 

“Injuries happen in our sport,” McIntyre said. “To lose Liam was disappointing, but ultimately it’s a team sport.” 

That speaks to a common trend for this year’s squad: A different player stepping up each game and doing anything necessary to get the job done. 

“It’s your life,” Murrell said. “You love to do it so you want to do it to the best of your ability. And [after that,] everyone else will follow.”

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