In their final game at Riggs Field, Clemson seniors Maddy Elder and Heather Marik finally tasted ACC victory.
The Clemson women's soccer team ended more than four seasons of ACC frustration Sunday afternoon by defeating N.C. State 1-0 in the final regular-season home match for the Tigers.
Elder and Marik have been mainstays in teams that lost 39 straight ACC matches - part of an overall 45-match conference losing streak that dated back to Oct. 9, 2008, when the Tigers defeated N.C. State 3-0.
Clemson finished 0-10 in the ACC in 2009, 2010 and 2011, and had lost their first nine conference matches this year - with many of the setbacks coming to conference rivals ranked among the top 20 in the nation. Clemson's 2008 season had ended with a six-game ACC losing streak.
Both Elder and Marik are four-year starters - Elder on attack, and Marik in back. Elder led the Tigers in scoring as a freshman, sophomore and junior.
The ACC victory was also the first for second-year coach Eddie Radwanski, who coached a string of nationally-ranked teams at UNC-Greensboro before coming to Clemson.
“It feels great to walk away with a win today,” said Elder. “That is the direction that this program is heading. It definitely feels like a weight lifted off our shoulders and hopefully the team can keep this going into next year.”
“This was a good way to go out,” said Marik. “It has been a long road, but to get that goal and to get the win today - it just feels like it has paid off. This win should give the team good momentum heading into next season.”
The Tigers outshot the Wolfpack 17-12 in the game, and had several good scoring chances.
The game-winning goal was scored at the 72:26 mark by freshman midfielder Jenna Polonsky. Seconds before, Elder took a hard shot from the left side which glanced off the post and landed inside the box. Polonsky used her left foot to tap the ball just over the line and out of the grasp of N.C. State's goalkeeper.
Junior goalkeeper Morgan Hert recorded five saves for the Tigers and improved her record to 1-1 in goal on the year. In the final minutes of regulation, Hert came up with a diving save on an NC State shot that would have tied the game, and a Wolfpack rebound shot slipped just side of the left post.
“I feel good for the players,” said Clemson coach Eddie Radwanski. “They have not given up all season. They came out with the right mentality and conviction to play. Even after we scored, we kept at it until the very end of the game. We were the better team today and I’m proud. The crowd was also great today. They were very supportive and it was obvious that the team was feeding off their energy.
“I’m very happy for the seniors," he added. "They are two great kids who have given everything to this team. Maddy was the player of the game today. It was clear that she really wanted it. She won every ball and she never got down. Heather Marik has played like a warrior over the past month and has really stepped up her game. I’m happy, especially for them, that we were able to end on a good note.
“Looking at the big picture, we beat South Carolina earlier this year, and we won an ACC game to finish the season. This is a good step forward for the program.”
Clemson 1, NC State 0
Clemson – Polonsky (unassisted) 72:26
Saves – Hert (CU) 5, Hopkins (NCSU) 0
Shots – Clemson 17, NC State 12
Corner Kicks – Clemson 3, NC State 4
Fouls – Clemson 12, NC State 12