After battling Boston College to a double-overtime draw for the second time this season, the Clemson men’s soccer team advanced to the semifinals of the ACC Tournament by winning a penalty kick shootout 3-1.
Rewarded as the ACC Tournament’s fourth-seed, the Tigers were hosting the 5th-seeded and 24th-ranked Eagles in a quarterfinal match, and earned the right to move on to College Park, MD, where they’ll meet top-seeded Maryland.
Reserve Tiger goalkeeper Chris Glodack replaced Cody Mizell between the pipes for the penalty kick round, and, after conceding the Eagle’s lone conversion by Kevin Mejia, made saves on shots by Colin Murphy and Isaac Taylor that bracketed a low, wide-left miss by Ryan Dunn.
For the Tigers, Ara Amirkhanian opened the shootout by slotting the ball down the middle as BC keeper Justin Luthy guessed to his right. TJ Casner notched the Tigers’ second spot-kick by driving the ball to the upper right corner, and Luthy broke to his right to stop the next attempt by the Tigers’ Manolo Sanchez.
Amadou Dia’s left-footed conversion high inside the right post turned out to be the clincher, as Glodack subsequently sealed the outcome by denying Taylor.
“Cody was carrying a little bit of an injury,” said Clemson coach Mike Noonan of his decision to insert Glodack for the shootout. “He doesn’t have the same push at the end to get off, so we went with Chris, and, obviously, he made the coach look good.
“I’m relieved more than anything else. It’s a nervy way to have to go, win or lose. Last year we lost on penalties, and it feels a lot better when you win. Credit to Boston College. They’ve had a good year, and I expect to see them in the NCAA Tournament when the draw comes out.”
The Tigers started the match with energy and purpose and looked dangerous with some brisk, one-touch combinations even as missed chances began to accumulate.
For example, and roughly within the first ten to twenty minutes, Amirkahanian’s header from the left that was probably intended as a centering pass, nicked wide off the underside of the cross-bar, and Austin Savage drove a diving close range header off the floor and just wide of the near post after getting on the end of a right-side cross from Sanchez.
“I thought we could have won it in the first fifteen minutes of the game,” said Noonan. “We had a load of chances during that stretch, and that’s when we played our best. Then we took our foot off the gas, and we’re not going to be able to do that against the best teams.
“But I thought that in pieces we played well. We couldn’t get the ball to go across the goal-line, but that’s soccer sometimes. Unfortunately, in some pieces of the game we reverted to the way we played in the first half of the season, instead of the way we played in the second half of the season.”
Clemson (6-8-5) finished with 14 shots to 12 for BC (8-8-5) and one of the Eagles’ better scoring chances came twenty-minutes in, as Mizell was alert to a ball played over the top and charged out early to converge with Chris Ager and preempt a potential breakaway. Later, and near the end of the half, Ager got under a ball near the edge of the six-yard box, and flicked a half-speed header off the left post.
Though the Tigers weren’t as consistent from an attacking standpoint in the second half, they still created some chances, and had two clear-cut opportunities to end the match with a golden goal in the first overtime. First when Jack Metcalf’s deep back-post cross from the right resulted in an off-target header by Dia on the doorstep, and again when Dia’s surging run into the left side of the box and hard low shot forced a save and spill by Luthy at the near post. The carom ran inside and out to Savage, and his follow-up appeared headed for the open net before being cut off the line by a defender.
While Noonan believes that his team will need to play better against Maryland in the semifinal, he was glad that the Tigers got a taste of ACC success, especially at Riggs.
“Like I’ve said throughout the course of the year, Historic Riggs Field and the history of the program is something that we value a great deal,” said Noonan. “To be able to bring back a playoff victory to this field is special. I told the players that you have to be brave to change the world, and we changed something tonight in terms of what has happened here in recent history. So, hopefully, this is one of many postseason successes at home in the future.”