ACC Co-Midfielder of the Year Set to Miss First NCAA Tournament Game
SYRACUSE, N.Y. (All Syracuse FN) – The Orange were unable to punch their ticket to a second straight ACC Championship game appearance on Wednesday night, losing 3-1 to #9 North Carolina. #18 Syracuse, seeded sixth in the ACC tournament, guaranteed themselves a semifinal home game by defeating third-seeded Virginia last Sunday. With UNC coming off their own upset win against Wake Forest, the Tarheels came into SU Soccer Stadium with confidence.
It showed early as the visitors were the first to get on the scoresheet, with a Syracuse defensive miscue leading to forward Martin Vician putting North Carolina up within six minutes. UNC doubled their lead less than ten minutes before the halftime whistle when forward Daniel Kutsch ran down a through ball and slotted it into the bottom left corner. Syracuse was able to pull one back in the 56th minute when Nicholas Kaloukian headed one into the UNC net, and the feeling inside the stadium was that the momentum was shifting.
This is where things went awry for the Orange. Just two minutes after the goal, star midfielder Jeorgio Kocevski saw red for a challenge just outside of the penalty box, with a VAR review upgrading the initial yellow card. After Kocevski got his marching orders, Vician added another against the Orange’s ten men and UNC was able to advance comfortably to Sunday’s ACC Championship match.
The Game is Over, but Koscevki’s Day Deserves a Rewind
Wednesday was an emotional roller-coaster of a day for Jeorgio Kocevski. Hours before kickoff, it was announced that the senior was selected as the ACC Co-Midfielder of the Year, to go along with All-ACC first team honors. It’s easy to see why – coming into the match, Kocevski had an impressive tally 11 assists in 18 appearances. He’s one of only five players in program history to record double-digit helpers in a single season, leading the conference in both assists and assists per game. “Jeorgio is having a terrific season,” coach Ian McIntyre said about the midfielder postgame.
One of the only returning starters from the treble-winning side that McIntyre trotted out last year, Kocevski is an integral part of Syracuse’s midfield and a cool head that players look to throughout the game. The midfielder worked his magic again on Wednesday night, sending in a perfect cross for Kaloukian to head home, cutting the UNC lead in half. To say that the usually subdued Kocevski was excited after his 12th assist of the season would be an understatement. After the goal, the midfielder gestured repeatedly for the home fans to get out of their seats, looking to will the crowd and his teammates towards a comeback. Kocevski has won it all before; he knows what it takes – everything.
But less than three minutes later, disaster struck. An ill-advised clip from Kocevski sent a North Carolina player tumbling right outside of the box. The referee (who had already made an enemy of the many Syracuse fans in attendance) blew his whistle for the free kick and reached into his pocket for a yellow card. Kocevski appealed, but the card was just – the foul had prevented a goalscoring opportunity. Before UNC had the chance to line up the free kick, the referee went to the monitor, and within moments a VAR review had upgraded Kocevski’s initial yellow card to a red.
The Syracuse players were indignant – this decision effectively ended any chance of a comeback. Down a goal and a man, the Orange were in big trouble. But for those thinking forward, this wasn’t close to the worst effect of the red card. Jeorgio Koscevski, the intregal piece that makes Syracuse’s offense flow, is now suspended for the first game of the upcoming NCAA Tournament. “It’s difficult for Jeorgio, to go into the national tournament and not be available going into your senior year,” McIntyre said. “Now it’s important for us to win a game and get him back on the pitch.”
The game ended 3-1, but the life left the stadium at the same time Kocevski did. The team continued to battle, as this Syracuse side has been known to do, but their attack fell flat without their All-ACC midfielder. Despite the negative result, McIntyre had positive words after the match. “In order for us to have a chance to beat North Carolina, you have to be all in. We were all in tonight, and that’s why instead of tears of joy, we’ve got tears and they’re painful,” McIntyre said. “That’s on our guys to put their arm around Jeorgio Koscevski tonight and get ourselves ready for next week.”
This Syracuse team is not one without motivation. They don’t need a fire to be lit under them; they play strong week in and week out. As a defending National Champion, they’ve heard consistent noise. They heard it as they went 2-1-5 in ACC play, less than a year removed from winning the conference. The Orange rallied and put together an unexpected conference tournament run, coming away with an extremely impressive win away at Virginia last week. They aren’t looking for a reason why – they want it bad enough already. But if there was ever someone to rally behind, it’s their senior superstar that will be stuck on the bench in the opening round of the NCAA tournament. If this team can win one game for Kocevski, there’s no reason the midfield magician can’t do it again and take home the whole thing for them.