CLEMSON, S.C. – Two goals in a five-minute span in the second half gave the Clemson women’s soccer team a 2-1 victory over Alabama in the first round of the 2017 NCAA Championships on Friday night at Historic Riggs Field. The Tigers improve to 10-5-3 with the win, and advance to the NCAA Second Round for the third-straight year.
“I want to give to Wes Hart and his staff a lot of credit...they came in, and they fought, battled and made the game difficult,” said head coach Eddie Radwanski. “We were not very sharp in the beginning, and I think a part of that was because of Alabama. It took us a while to find our groove, and our chances became more apparent later on in the first half. In the second half, we tried to send the message of letting the ball do the work. We felt as we were making decisions a little bit slower...that if we could pass the ball a little bit quicker, we could catch them out of position and create better chances. I started to think if we don’t start putting those in, all they need is one instant, which happened, and the next thing you know we are behind. That isn’t always a good feeling when you fall behind in the NCAA Tournament late in the second half. I will give our kids some credit...to respond the way they did and bounce back and score two goals shows a lot about what they are made of. This wasn’t our prettiest game, but we had some really good moments in which we were effective. At this time of year in the tournament, that is something that you are going to need.”
Clemson dictated play for much of the first half, but was unable to capitalize on its scoring chances, resulting in a 0-0 score at halftime. Just over a minute into the contest, the Tigers earned a corner kick, which was handled by Shannon Horgan, but Sam Staab’s shot was saved by Crimson Tide keeper Kat Stratton. Clemson had two more chances on corner kicks in the first half, but was unable to generate another shot on goal. Jenna Polonsky’s shot with five minutes remaining in the period was blocked by an Alabama defender, and was the Tigers’ final chance of the half.
Both teams came out firing on offense to start the second half, with two shots each in the first seven minutes of the period. The Tigers had two good chances in the 60th minute, as Julie Mackin found Ellen Colborn with a nice pass, Colborn settled the ball and launched a shot that was saved by Stratton. Patrice DiPasquale came up with the rebound, but her shot missed wide.
Alabama scored the game’s first goal at the 67-minute mark, as a long pass by Emma Welch took an odd bounce over the head of Clemson keeper Sandy MacIver, and Casey Wertz was there to finish from three-yards out. The Tigers did not panic with the one-goal deficit, and in fact, just four minutes later, Mariana Speckmaier netted the equalizer on a beautiful 10-yard shot that was assisted by Polonsky. Five minutes after that, Clemson took a 2-1 lead after a Staab corner kick was perfectly placed at the far post for Dani Antieau to head in off the Alabama keeper from close range.
Clemson finished the match with 11 shots to the Crimson Tides’ six and six corner kicks to Alabama’s one. Speckmaier’s goal was her seventh of the season, and the 2017 ACC All-Freshman team selection now has 16 points. Antieau’s gamewinner was her second goal of the year. MacIver posted four saves and picked up the win in 90 minutes in net for the Tigers.
The Tigers advance to the NCAA Second Round to face Texas, a 3-0 winner over North Texas in the first round. The location and date of the match is to be determined, and will be finalized after the first-round match between Duke and UNC Greensboro, to be played on Nov. 11 in Durham, N.C.