It was quite the opening night for the Clemson men’s soccer team as it had no problem outplaying in-state rival South Carolina and ultimately defeating the Gamecocks, 4-1, at Historic Riggs Field in Clemson. It marked head coach Mike Noonan and the Tigers’ sixth straight win against against South Carolina.
“Well to be honest with you what’s important is that we’re 1-0,” Noonan said. “Whoever came tonight, we were going to play well for tonight, and I feel like the boys played well tonight. Being able to start 1-0 is something we weren’t able to do last season so it’s an improvement. I’m proud of the guys tonight.”
Scoring four goals in the match, the Tigers looked like a completely different team in comparison to last season, especially in the first half. The players looked incredibly well conditioned as they flew across the field consistently in the first half. This opened up a ton of through balls and lob-throughs that allowed the Tigers to continually get behind the South Carolina defense.
“It’s the design of our team, the team’s an attacking team,” Noonan said. “Like I said last week, our strength and conditioning people do a great job getting them fit and our guys did a great job to come here in the summertime and get ready for the opener. That’s what it’s about playing for Clemson.”
It was a night to remember for Grayson Barber as the sophomore forward capitalized on a couple of opportunities, scoring two goals in the game for the Tigers — one off of a lob-through ball that landed right on his feet for a one-on-one with the keeper and the second on another through ball near the pipe that Barber was able to beat the defender to and rocket a low ball past the keeper.
“Not only can he run for days, he’s fast,” Noona said. “It was good, obviously Grayson had a great match. Although that’s true, it’s not about who is scoring goals but more so about Clemson winning. We’re happy with the last couple days.”
Kimarni Smith and Quinn McNeill scored the other two goals for Clemson as South Carolina had little answer for the Tigers’ speed. One of the fastest players on the field, freshman Phil Mayaka, may not have scored, but he surely made his presence known as he showed signs of possibly being the ACC’s breakout star.
“Well we’ll definitely work on his left foot that’s for sure,” Noonan joked. “But I’ll tell you what, he is a difference maker, he’s a difference maker. It’s going to get tougher for him. These teams are going to know who he is now and this was really his coming out party. He’s going to have to keep pace with that.”
The Tigers will next take the field Monday, Sept. 2nd as they take on Detroit Mercy at Historic Riggs Field at 5 p.m.
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