Clemson advanced to the ACC Championship Game with a 1-0 victory over Pittsburgh Wednesday at Historic Riggs Field in Clemson.
The Tigers scored what turned out to be game-winner just before the end of the first half when Mohamed Seye’s slow roller found the back of the Pittsburgh goal.
With the win, the top-ranked Tigers will play Virginia in the championship game on Sunday at noon in Cary, North Carolina.
“It’s just another game on Sunday,” Clemson head coach Mike Noonan said. “We get another opportunity to play and I think everyone in the country has been looking forward to this game all year, so we’re going to give it to them.”
Wednesday was a big day for the men’s soccer program. Not only did the Tigers advance to the ACC Championship game, but Noonan was named the ACC Coach of the Year, while Robbie Robinson and Malick Mbaye were tabbed as Offensive and Defensive Player of the Year, respectively. In addition, Philip Mayaka earned Freshman of the Year honors.
In all, eight Tigers received All-ACC honors.
As for the match against Pitt, Clemson came out hot to start, dominating possession and putting together multiple strong offensive attacks. The Tigers had 10 shots on goal and 3 shots on target in the first half.
They finally broke a scoreless tie when Oskar Askren received a lob pass just outside of the box. Captain Tanner Dietrich delivered a chest pass into the box, finding the foot of a wide open Seye.
With time and room, Seye sent a slow roller into the left side of the net, giving Clemson a 1-0 lead.
“It was one of those plays where you’re just in the moment and do what you feel is right,” Dietrich said. “You send your forwards up to score and that’s what they’ve been doing all season, so I thought that I’d lay it off to him and Moha did perfectly. It’s a tough game and one goal makes a difference. Credit to our defense for holding on strong.”
Noonan had nothing but praise for his senior defender and credits a lot of what the team is today to Dietrich.
“Tanner was fantastic again,” said the Clemson coach. “I think that he’s the key to the turnaround of the team in terms of his internal leadership and then his performance on the field on both sides of the ball has been phenomenal. Probably the most complete and consistent player we’ve had all year.”
Putting together their second clean sheet in a row, the Tigers have yet to give up a goal in the ACC Tournament. Starting keeper George Marks had six saves.
“George has played that way all season,” Noonan said. “They haven’t gotten to him maybe as much as they had tonight but he was clean and he deserved a clean sheet. He managed the game really well for us and he did what he needed to do.”
Robinson missed his second game in a row Wednesday, and it looks as if the ACC’s top player won’t be ready for the ACC championship match, either.
“Robbie’s probably not going to play this weekend,” Noonan said. “It takes more than five days to recover from a muscle injury, it’s not something that you do. Obviously he’s a talent and is important to the team but at the same point, next man up.”