Usually the Clemson-South Carolina soccer match ends with some dramatics. Three of the last five matches have been decided in overtime.
That wasn’t the case Friday night at Historic Riggs Field.
The fifth-ranked Tigers used an early gift from South Carolina in the first 15 minutes, and then rolled to an easy 4-1 victory. The win marked Clemson’s fourth straight victory in the long time series. Clemson now leads the series 28-17-1.
“We have gotten lucky a few times,” Clemson head coach Mike Noonan joked about beating the Gamecocks four straight year. “But we have built a program in the ACC that is very, very good and competitive. In this state, it is very competitive, and right now we have dominated the last (four) years, but South Carolina is an excellent program.”
For the Clemson seniors, it means they end their careers undefeated against the Gamecocks.
“It’s a really good feeling” said senior captain Oliver Shannon. “That’s my fourth win against them in the four years I’ve been here so I know the feeling. I feel like everything came together in the second half and we controlled the game well. Just need to keep pushing on.”
The victory was also Noonan’s 300th career as a head coach.
“I mean we’re 300 games over, now we’re looking for 301” the Clemson coach said. “Obviously, I’ve been involved in the game for a long time. That’s why I was able to get to 300, but the guy I coached against today, has close to 500 wins. It’s not that significant when I compare it to Coach (Mark) Berson’s career.”
The Tigers (3-0) started off the match strong, putting on unrelenting pressure on the attack. Early in the half Clemson was awarded a corner and moments later at 15:34 in the game, the ball was put in the back of the net on an own goal. As the corner was taken it deflected off the head of South Carolina’s Peyton Ericson and into the net giving the Tigers 1-0 lead.
Later in the first half the Gamecocks (2-1) were able shift momentum and equalize the match. At 23:28, Carolina was able to capitalize on a wide run which resulted on a point blank opportunity and an equalizing goal. It shifted the momentum of the first half and gave way to a more even contest.
As the explosive attacking first half continued, Clemson’s Jason Wright as able to hook a shot from the top of the box on the right side into the back of the net giving the Tigers a 2-1 lead. The goal was assisted off of a solid pass from senior defenseman Michael Melvin.
Clemson extend its lead to 4-1 at 86th minute mark. Kimahri Smith was able to capitalize on a through ball that came from the foot of forward Jason Wright. The Tigers dominated most of the match.
“They stuck with it” Noonan said. “What I was most happy with was the fact that after they conceded a goal, there were no heads put down and their attitude stayed very positive. We went into halftime up a goal and they were focused to finish the game and they did a very good job of that.”
Wright and Kimahri Smith, both new to the program, scored goals on Friday.
“They’re both very good players and they’re different players” Noonan said. “They’re very difficult to defend. You can’t defend one without worrying about the other I mean one can run and one holds it up really well and turns and disguises his shot.”
The Tigers’ will travel to play Georgia Southern on Monday at 7 p.m.