SU vs. NC State

Polk and Cross lead Syracuse come-from-behind victory over North Carolina State

"We had to change the game around in the last 17 minutes," head coach Ian McIntyre said.

When North Carolina State striker Julius Duchscherer put the Wolfpack ahead 1-0 with a hard dribbler in the 67th minute of the match versus Syracuse Friday night, Orange forward Ben Polk described it as another 'uh-oh' moment. The Orange lost its last ACC match against Clemson in heartbreaking fashion, 1-0, conceding a goal in the final minute of the match, and it lost the game before that 2-1 versus the UNC Tar Heels, losing grasp of a 1-0 first-half lead. Being on the bubble (10-4-2, 3-3-1) of ACC tournament eligibility, Polk said he knew the team had to step up its performance, fast. And he took it upon himself to make it happen. 

Photo: Jacob Greenfield
Louis Cross has the ball at his feet.


At the left edge of the box in minute 74, Polk gathered a loose ball, his body facing midfield, and in one swift motion, swiveled, leading with his left foot to send a low-lying strike by some defender's legs and past a diving goalie, smacking the right corner netting. The junior's seventh goal of the season tied the match at one; it was Polk's first goal in ACC play since his hat-trick against Pittsburgh on Sept. 25. If Polk could describe that moment with another interjection, it'd probably be 'phew' followed by a smooth swiping of sweat off his forehead and a smile of sweet relief. 


"He's needed that in the last couple of games, being close, and we needed someone to stand up and get that goal tonight and thankfully he did," head coach Ian McIntyre said. 


"I probably could have put that game to bed a little earlier, missed a couple chances, but you just keep pushing," Polk said. 


And so the Orange kept grinding away. With the game tied, Syracuse escaped two shots on goal from close range that sailed high, but mostly held possession otherwise. At the 84 minute mark, Syracuse junior defender Louis Cross let a corner kick from teammate Liam Callahan skim off of his head. 


"A bit surreal wasn't it?" Cross said. "The cut [of the cross] was really down and I sort of spaced it for the post, and as soon as I saw it go to the back of the net, I sort of lost myself."


Led by Cross, the team ran towards their bench and were greeted with an exuberant huddle-and-hugs celebration in front of an erupted SU crowd of more than 1,500. An SU alumnus was so pumped that he stormed through the field-entrance gate and into the frenzy (something most people don't have the bold courage and spirit to do, because, you know, you're really not supposed to) and no one stopped him. He blended right into the cluster without a hiccup. As he walked off the field when the commotion died down, with just the dozen or so people who noticed what happened staring at him in awe, he said to himself, "That was beautiful."


The Lancanshire, England native's second goal of the season would stand as the game-winner. It was also Cross' second career game-winning goal. 


"We were all over them for the whole game and as soon as Ben got the equalizer, we could kind of sense that there was only one outcome, and that was a win for us," Cross said.


Syracuse's come-from-behind victory was its fourth of the season. The Wolfpack (8-4-3, 1-4-3), meanwhile, hadn't once endured a come-from-behind loss this season, before this. 


With about five minutes for redemption, North Carolina's final opportunity came on a corner kick, but it didn't even see a shot before SU kicked it away. For those last five minutes, it seemed like the Orange players were gliding across the pitch while the Pack was sluggishly trotting. 


"We showed a lot of character, lot of heart, kept on working and we managed to get the game," Polk said. "We expect to be able to compete with the best team's in the country."


The No. 15 Syracuse men's soccer team now has 10 points in the ACC standings, and should be set to move into the conference championships with one of the bottom seeds out of eight overall.  Their final regular season game will be in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts against Boston College on Oct. 30. 


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