Men's Soccer

Hendrik Hilpert records career-high 8 saves in Syracuse’s Sweet 16 loss to North Carolina

Tony D. Curtis | Staff Photographer

Hendrik Hilpert makes one of his eight saves in SU's Sweet 16 matchup against North Carolina.

UPDATED: Nov. 28 at 6:45 p.m.

Hendrik Hilpert has rarely been called into action more than a handful of times in a single game all season. Syracuse’s stringent defense has prevented the ball from even reaching the Orange’s sophomore goalkeeper, who ranked near the bottom of the league in saves despite leading it in shutouts.

Sunday’s NCAA tournament tilt brought a different twist to the narrative of Hilpert’s season, when he was summoned to keep North Carolina off the scoreboard early and often.

Hilpert recorded a career-high eight saves, but he needed a ninth to keep Syracuse’s season alive. Despite one of his best games of the season and his two-year career, Hilpert and the eighth-seeded Orange (12-4-4, 3-2-3 Atlantic Coast) fell, 1-0, to the ninth-seeded Tar Heels (13-3-3, 5-1-2) in the NCAA tournament Sweet 16 at Onondaga Community College’s Murphy Field on Sunday afternoon.


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“We know what Hendrik brings to the table,” SU head coach Ian McIntyre said. “He’s a wonderful shot-stopper.”

Less than eight minutes into the game, Hilpert took flight and parried Tucker Hume’s header from the edge of the 6-yard box with the palm of his right hand. The rebound fell to Alan Winn, and the ball bounced up to his waist just to the right of Hilpert’s near post. The sophomore charged into the 50-50 challenge and threw his body into Winn’s to prevent the visitors from taking an early lead.

Just 15 minutes later, Hilpert deflected Winn’s one-time shot from point-blank range, before pouncing on the rebound right in front of the goal to keep the game scoreless.

“He’s going to tell you that’s part of his job,” McIntyre said. “He’s a very humble young man, but when called on, he was outstanding today.”

Jeremy Kelly’s line-drive attempt from the top of the 18-yard box found the bottom-left corner of the goal with 13:46 left in the first half.

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Tony D. Curtis | Staff Photographer

For the remainder of the game, SU mustered a handful of chances but it was mainly the Tar Heels threatening to blow the game open.

“It felt like a one-goal game no matter what was gonna happen,” UNC head coach Carlos Somoano said, “even the chances, it just felt like it was gonna be a one-goal game.”

That was, in part, a credit to Hilpert’s heroics, flashing the reflexes he displayed on occasion this season but never in bunches like when Syracuse trailed with its season on the line. First it was a leaping two-handed deflection off a Cam Lindley dipping shot from 35 yards out late in the second half. Then an acrobatic save of Mauricio Pineda’s free kick from the same distance.

For the majority of the regular season and even this postseason, Kamal Miller, Louis Cross and Miles Robinson have relieved Hilpert of having to save a game on his own.

On Sunday, it was Hilpert’s turn to bail out his defense for a switch, which he did nearly as much as possible.

“I think an outstanding goalkeeper is on the winning team. That was the case throughout the season. We won a lot of games, but today it’s over,” Hilpert said. “That hurts right now, and we may need some days and weeks to settle down emotionally.”

CORRECTION: In a previous version of this article, Hendrik Hilpert’s position on the field after a goal from Jeremy Kelly was misstated. The Daily Orange regrets this error. 

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