The Clemson men’s soccer team handled business Saturday as it defeated NC State, 3-0, in the last game of the regular season.
“The clean sheet has been a long time coming,” Clemson head coach Mike Noonan said. “We talked before the game in training about having our best defensive performance we’ve had all year and I think Johnny played well, the whole back five were terrific.”
It was the Tigers who opened up scoring on senior day as Kimarni Smith scored a lob to the left side of the net at the 23:18 mark. After a high lofted ball by Patrick Bunk-Andersen, Smith found room behind the NC State defense and was able to give Clemson the 1-0 lead.
“That’s Kimarni’s greatest asset is his pace” said Noonan. “It’s electric when he goes, you can hear it in the crowd. He used it well tonight, and it obiviously resulted in the first goal which is really, really important. Over the last two games we’ve scored the first goal and you can see the result.”
While the score remained 1-0 going into the half, Clemson continued its strong performance at the start of the second. At the 50:03 mark, senior captain Andrew Burnikel found the back of the net off a header on a cross delivered by Adrien Nunez. This gave the team a 2-0 lead and gave the Tigers complete control of the game.
The Clemson defense was tested late, but graduate senior goalkeeper Johnny Southerland halted the NC State attack. At the 65:14 mark, Southerland made a big save inside the box and helped secure a clean sheet for the Tigers defense.
The scoring didn’t stop for Clemson as forward Robbie Robinson put the Tigers ahead 3-0. At 74:44, Robinson stepped back for a 21-yard free kick and buried it into the bottom right corner. Robinson’s second goal of the seasons secured a 3-0 win for Clemson.
“A healthy Robbie Robinson was something we planned on having the whole year,” said the Clemson head coach. “Unfortunately, that didn’t happen but that’s sport. Robbie’s showed over the last two games that he’s a tactical threat and I’m really proud of him because he went out in training yesterday and worked on just that, free kicks. It paid dividends.”
It was the last home game of the senior’s career and Noonan had some great things to say about the group after their final home victory.
“I’ve said this too often, all of them could marry my daughters,” said Noonan. “I think that’s a testament to the type of gentlemen they are and the type of competitors they are. Their legacy is here and it will always be here. They’re wonderful, wonderful men.”