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Vallentine, Hunter Send DePaul to BIG EAST Playoffs
Anthony Hunter scored his first collegiate goal in DePaul's 2-1 win over Syracuse Saturday at Wish Field.

Anthony Hunter scored his first collegiate goal in DePaul's 2-1 win over Syracuse Saturday at Wish Field.

Oct. 29, 2011

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CHICAGO - If Wes Vallentine and Anthony Hunter had gone on a shopping spree along Michigan Avenue, they couldn't have come up with a better gift for Senior Day.

Vallentine and Hunter each scored the first goal of their collegiate career in sending DePaul to the BIG EAST Championship playoffs with a 2-1 victory over Syracuse on Saturday.

This is the sixth year in a row the Blue Demons have qualified for the BIG EAST tournament, and there were heroics all around Wish Field.

Vallentine scored in the 17th minute at the end of a classic scoring sequence.

"It started with a good ball from David Leverentz to Thiago Ganancio on the right wing," Vallentine said. "It was incredible that Thiago had the vision to look up and find me.

"When I saw the goalkeeper coming across and, I put it back where he was running---across his body."

For the junior forward making his first start of the season, Vallentine had the composure to simply flick the shot past the Syracuse goalie instead of blasting the shot.

"It definitely means a lot to me," Vallentine said. "We wanted to win it for the seniors (Matt Leinauer, John Jandl, Joe Ferrari) so bad.

"This means so much to see the smiles on their faces at the end of the game."

Needing a win to make the BIG EAST playoffs, Syracuse (3-12-1, 1-7-1) came out strong in the second half.

In the 49th minute, Grant Chong scored on a rebound after DePaul goalkeeper Eric Sorby had deflected a Syracuse shot.

A tie would have clinched the final playoff spot in the Red Division for DePaul (6-10-2, 3-5-1), but the Blue Demons went for the win.

In the 59th minute, DePaul unleashed its freshman connection for the winning goal.

David Selvaggi weaved his way through the Orange defense and sent a smooth through ball onto Hunter.

"David put it right in the box for me," Hunter said. "I hit it with my left foot and put it in the back of the net.

"I didn't think it was going in at first, but then I got real excited. My first goal---it's one down and more to come.

"This team has kept on fighting through all the ups and downs this season."

Defensively, Jared Blincow, Austin Toth, Jandl and Kyle Gustafson combined to limit Syracuse to three shots on goal.

Ferrari came in after Sorby was injured in the second half and whitewashed the Orange over the final 34 minutes.

"The way Ferrari came in and played in relief of Sorby was outstanding," said DePaul coach Craig Blazer. "Jandl had a strong performance and played through his injury. Leinauer was effective on both sides of the ball.

"I was proud of the way all three seniors stepped forward and provided leadership today.

"The first goal was a great combination play, and they kept the ball on the ground with great ball movement. That second goal displayed some very good off-the-ball running."

All of that continues DePaul's run of success in qualifying for the BIG EAST tournament.

"It's tremendous that we continue to have this benchmark of success," Blazer said. "Our young guys are still finding a way to get better, and it's reassuring that we're headed in the right direction."

DePaul won't know its first-round playoff opponent until all the BIG EAST matches are completed Sunday night. It will be either Connecticut or West Vrginia, on the road.

NOTES: Wes Vallentine's father, Charles, has been a good-luck charm for his son... Charles Vallentine attended both spring games when Wes scored a goal and made it to his first match of the fall season on Saturday to watch his son score that first DePaul goal... "He called it before the game when he told me this was going to be my big day," Wes Vallentine said... when asked if dad was coming to the BIG EAST playoff game, Wes said: "He better be there"... Leverentz recorded the first assist of his collegiate career... Selvaggi, who has seven goals this season, picked up the first assist of his collegiate career... this is the second year in a row DePaul has qualified for the BIG EAST playoffs on the final day of the regular season... the Blue Demons were outshot by Syracuse 17-11 but had a 6-3 advantage in shots on goal... Leinauer had three shots with one on goal... Antonio Aguilar and Selvaggi each took two shots with one on frame... Vallentine, Hunter and Jandl each had one shot on goal.