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first_imgNestled around a bookshelf behind Ian McIntyre’s desk, there’s a ball from each postseason game he has coached at Syracuse. They’re signed by every SU player who was on the team for the game.Then there’s the ACC championship trophy sitting right by the door. Just six years ago, none of those trophies or balls were within McIntyre’s periphery. Now they’re in his rear view.Since he was hired at SU in 2010, McIntyre has turned around what was once a struggling program that had failed to reach an NCAA tournament game since 1984. In just six years, the program flipped from a 2-10-5 team floundering in the Big East to reaching a College Cup, college soccer’s final four.The transformation happened quicker than McIntyre and assistant coach Jukka Masalin would have thought.“The first year, we won two games,” McIntyre said before SU played Clemson last December. “If you had a conversation with me at the end of that season and said, ‘Yeah, five year’s time, we’re going to be ready to board a plane to go to the College Cup,’ I’d have hugged you … Or I’d have slapped you.”AdvertisementThis is placeholder textMcIntyre took over a program that had a 141-171-33 record in the 19 years prior to his arrival. Dean Foti had guided SU in each of those seasons, failing to reach the NCAA tournament in every one of them. In Foti’s final season, Syracuse posted a 3-15 record.Foti was a homegrown guy, playing for the Orange from 1979-82. He started for SU every year, was a two-time captain and helped the Orange win the inaugural Big East championship.But he had overstayed his welcome. Some of Foti’s players wrote a letter before his last season, intended for athletic director Daryl Gross. It called for Foti to be fired, and as a result, factions formed within the team in the head coach’s last year.Enter McIntyre, who had compiled a 71-36-25 record at Hartwick, where he played (he even faced SU in the Carrier Dome) as a collegiate soccer player. Now, in the last five seasons at SU including this one, McIntyre has put together a 60-22-7 record, rebounding from two tumultuous seasons in which SU finished a combined 5-22-6. In 2010, 5,873 people attended SU home games. That number has already been surpassed in four games this season. The changes McIntyre made have resonated for years, no matter how small.“It was brutal,” Masalin, who came to Syracuse with McIntyre, said of the early portion of his time at SU. “… It took a while to change that culture. A couple years we needed to dig pretty deep.”Sam Ogozalek | Contributing PhotographerThe first indication of how McIntyre’s first season would go came early on, when, per Masalin, several of SU’s players went abroad during the spring semester. There were players the coaches didn’t see until training for the new staff’s first season was about to start in the fall.One of McIntyre’s first moves was to recruit goalie Jeremy Vuolo and midfielder Nick Roydhouse from Hartwick to transfer. While Foti’s tenure was unsuccessful, he still had players who supported him when McIntyre took over.Vuolo and Roydhouse, “generals” as Masalin called them, had already bought into what McIntyre and Masalin had been preaching at Hartwick.In addition to selling Vuolo and Roydhouse on his vision for the program, McIntyre was able to draw them away from Hartwick with the SU brand. They visited SU when the Orange men’s basketball team played Villanova in the Carrier Dome on Feb. 27, 2010 and set an on-campus attendance record, just more than a month after McIntyre had been hired. The Orange’s brand had to be a selling point for recruits early on when SU had a combined five wins in two years.“You need to get your own guys in here who believe in what you do,” Masalin said.Immediately, McIntyre molded the fitness level of the team and its competitiveness. They started testing SU players’ fitness five to six times per year with a mix of running, muscular and body fat tests. During breaks, players received specific fitness plans. If they didn’t follow them or came up short in tests, McIntyre and Masalin would drill specific areas to get players where they expected them to be.Practice was no longer just a place to practice. McIntyre and Masalin made it more of a competition, tracking goals. The former said it wasn’t quite the “old-fashioned” way of pushing them mentally and physically, but it was intense.Some players hardly bought in during McIntyre’s first season. Some older players would consistently pull out of training with injuries.Former SU players Nick Perea, Jordan Murrell and Skylar Thomas came in as part of the 2011 recruiting class and got immediate playing time. At the time, bringing in their own players fractured the team, but SU had to go through a process of flushing out the “old” mentality.McIntyre wanted to transition his team from a mindset of survival — playing in games just to be in them — to a winning one. That season, Perea, Murrell and Thomas each started more than 85 percent of Syracuse’s games as freshmen.“They were thrown in the deep end,” McIntyre said of the players he recruited early on. “… The groundwork was laid by the guys that came in on the ground level and really had to fight and scrap to move forward.”Daily Orange File PhotoCurrent assistant coach Andrew Coughlin started to see change early before the 2012 season when he played goalie for SU. The coaching staff brought in players who wanted to continue their soccer careers beyond college, he said, which made them more receptive to intense training.Although Coughlin couldn’t point to a specific moment where the program started changing, he remembered when Murrell yelled at him in training because Coughlin gave up a goal both knew he shouldn’t give up. That was symbolic of a shift from survival to believing the team could be better. Players started holding each other accountable. 2012 proved to be the year McIntyre turned the program around. SU went 14-6-1.“It was kind of a ‘You have nothing to lose attitude’ because we only had three wins the year before,” Coughlin said.By 2013, SU posted a record of 10-7-1. In 2014, the Orange earned the first No. 1 ranking in program history. And last year, Syracuse won its first conference championship since 1985 before advancing to college soccer’s version of the Final Four.McIntyre, sitting behind his desk, picked up a ball turned it in his hands. He cherishes each because he’s seen the depths the program had to sink just to rise as far as it has.But while he cherishes them, he also understands the flip side: The soccer balls and their significance are behind him for a reason. It’s the ones ahead that count.“A great year has no impact on us moving forward,” McIntyre said.He put the ball back in place then swiveled forward in his chair. Everything behind him left his view.“I hope we’ll get a chance at some stage to add to those soccer balls.” Comments Related Stories Chris Nanco improves finishing ability in senior seasonMiles Robinson sets up Syracuse to win, 3-2, in overtime against St. John’sSyracuse men’s soccer takes down St. John’s, 3-2, on Jonathan Hagman’s overtime goal Facebook Twitter Google+center_img Published on September 8, 2016 at 12:40 am Contact Chris: [email protected] | @ChrisLibonatilast_img read more

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