For the first time since 1998 Clemson men’s soccer owns the No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
The Tigers defeated top-ranked Pitt 2-1 at Riggs Field in Clemson on Saturday to secure the automatic qualifier bid to the tournament after winning the 2020 ACC Tournament over the same No. 1 Panthers in Cary, N.C. on Nov. 20.
Clemson head coach Mike Noonan knows being the top dog in the tournament is a massive accomplishment, but knows there is still work to be done.
“It’s massive, you always want to be No. 1 in everything you do and that’s the case in this program and at Clemson,” Noonan said immediately after the announcement on Monday. “Earning that top seed over the course of the entire year is fantastic and the players should all be credited for what they’ve been able to do.”
The Tigers enter the tournament 13-3-2 overall with three wins against No. 1 teams. This season presented unique challenges for Noonan and the Tigers.
Clemson played an eight-game fall season and finished 8-2-1 including a run in the conference tournament with wins over No. 5 Virginia Tech, Virginia and No. 1 Pitt to claim the program’s first ACC Tournament Championship since 2014.
After the fall season, the Tigers lost three of their top players to the MLS Super Draft in Philip Mayaka, Kimarni Smith and Justin Malou. This forced Noonan to make some changes in his starting 11 for the spring season.
But, Clemson stepped up to the challenge and went 4-1-1 in the spring season to earn the top seed and a first round bye in the NCAA Tournament, which will be played at different venues in the state of North Carolina.
“It’s something we will never forget and the way it was handled with the challenge placed in front of us I think at every turn we did what we needed to do to get to this position,” Noonan said. “I’m unbelievably grateful first and foremost, but more than anything else I’m proud.”
Clemson, who earned a first-round bye, will play the winner between Jacksonville and American in the second round of the tournament on May 2 at 8 p.m. in Winston-Salem, N.C. on the campus of Wake Forest University.
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