The 13th-ranked Clemson women’s soccer team capped off a thrilling, 2-1, overtime victory against No. 20 Auburn Friday night at Riggs Field, in front of an excited crowd of 2,237. The win coming on a golden goal off the foot of freshman Mariana Speckmaier.
Clemson head coach Eddie Radwanski believed Speckmaier, who leads the Tigers in goals with four, struggled throughout regulation. However, Radwanski offered words of encouragement to the freshman before overtime in hopes she would deliver for the team. He wanted to tap into Speckmaier’s ability to finish.
Two minutes into the final overtime period (101:49), Speckmaier delivered what her head coach wanted. Senior Sam Staab pushed the ball into the box, then Jeni Erickson flicked the ball to Speckmaier, who pushed the ball past Auburn keeper Sarah Le Beau for the win.
The Clemson coach has known Speckmaier since she was 9-years old and could not have been more proud of her.
“She has a goal scoring instinct in her … and Mariana was the poacher she was supposed to be,” said Radwanski.
Both teams played outstanding defense in a game that lasted over 100 minutes.
Clemson (3-0) struck first scoring at the 16:46 mark, taking a 1-0 advantage on a cross from sophomore Julie Mackin, who finished by graduate Jenna Polonsky inside the six. The goal marked the third for Polonsky on the season.
Clemson’s defense kept Auburn at bay in the first half, holding the SEC Tigers to just 4 shots-on-goal and no conversions.
In the second half, Auburn took advantage of a Clemson defensive miscue to even the score at 1-1. MacIver collected a ball outside of the 18’ box putting her out of position. SEC Tiger sophomore Bri Folds stole the pass and took advantage of the error chipping the ball over the keeper.
Following the goal, the ACC Tiger defense fought back holding Auburn to only two goals the rest of the game.
Auburn (1-1-1) took a shot on goal that went off the crossbar in front of the goal. The SEC Tigers thinking the goal was good celebrated causing a stoppage of play and forcing the first of two corner kicks in the final two minutes, neither yielding fruit.
Defense prevailed in the first overtime period as Auburn kept Clemson scoreless on four shot attempts. This pushed the Tigers to play into the final overtime period.
Auburn could not convert on a shot opportunity in the final period giving Clemson what proved to be the final possession of the match.
And Speckmaier seized the opportunity.
“I was looking at Sam taking the free kick and I was ready for it,” she said. “I knew Jeni would flick it so I was waiting for the ball to drop so I could finish and I did.”
Clemson will continue the 2017 campaign Saturday against UNC-Greensboro at 6 p.m.
—Above Photo: Clemson’s Mariana Speckmaier (17) celebrates her game-winning goal in overtime as the 13th-ranked Tigers defeated No. 20 Auburn, 2-1, on Friday at Riggs Field. (Photo by Carl Ackerman / Clemson Athletic Communication)