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Sunday, Apr 16, 2017 at 12:18 am

Number One Syracuse Survives Against North Carolina

By Matt Wieselthier

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — In his last two games, Sergio Salcido provided eight assists, but didn’t score a single goal.

He was shooting under 20% for the season as one of the senior captains for the Orange.

But in what was possibly Syracuse’s most important game of the season, Salcido took control.

“I’ve been working a lot getting into practice the past couple weeks, getting to shoot on my own and getting back to my mechanics,” said Salcido, who recorded his first hat-trick of the season. “Kind of breaking any bad habits I might have picked along the way. Didn’t try to shoot as hard as I could and really just trying to pick a spot and believe in it and put the ball where I can put it.”

In the most crucial moment of the game, Salcido did just that.

Syracuse went man-up in overtime after a foul by North Carolina’s Jack Lambert.

After a timeout by UNC, the Orange came out with a brand new man-up play that happened to find the former walk-on.

“We ran one of our sets that we’ve been working on the past couple weeks and threw a little wrinkle in it,” said Salcido, who scored his second game-winning goal of the season. “I was kind of sitting on the back side, being patient, watching how they rotated. I noticed the guy who had to rotate up to me had to run maybe ten yards from the crease up. That’s a long rotation and I knew if our guys could get their guys to commit then I’m going to probably end up getting the shot.”

The confidence to go to anyone in that situation may come thanks to the close games the Orange has played this season. This win now gives Syracuse a 7-1 record this season in one-goal games.

That prior experience seemed to calm down the team, according to head coach John Desko.

“I noticed that with all the one goal games, with every one we had that in the huddles at the end of the game, it was different than the first one,” said Desko, whose SU squad has now clinched its first ever undefeated ACC season. “The first one was a lot of emotion, a lot of yelling, ‘We got to get this one.’ And as time has gone on, there’s a little more calmness and always talking about what we do, what we’re going to do and just a little more air of confidence in those huddles.”

Confidence will certainly help Syracuse, as it will take the number one seed into the ACC tournament in two weeks.

Before that is a date with Central New York rival Binghamton next Saturday.

But for now, the Orange can leave Chapel Hill knowing it is the undisputed regular season champions of the ACC for the first time ever.