NO.1 CLEMSON SOCCER SUFFERS SECOND STRAIGHT NCAA ELIMINATION BY PK'S
- 2021-05-07 16:50:37
CARY, NC - What a heartbreaking loss for Mike Noonan and the No.1 Tigers! For the second straight NCAA Tournament, they were eliminated by penalty kick shootout following a 1-1 draw, this time 7-6 at the hands of Marshall in the Sweet 16. In 2019, they lost as the No.2 seed to Stanford in the Elite 8 by PK's. Marshall struck first, taking a 1-0 lead on a set piece from 25 yards out about 15 minutes into the game, but senior midfielder Callum Johnson tied it from point blank with 14 minutes left in the 1st half. The Tigers had 14 corner kicks to just one for Marshall, but they were unable to capitalize on the disparity.
Noonan went with freshman goal keeper Trevor Manion for the shootout, rather than starter George Marks, who played all of regulation and both overtime periods. Manion is a few inches taller with more reach, and Noonan told me after the game that he had performed better than Marks in penalty kick situations at practice. The strategy appeared to work at first, as Manion came up with a save on Marshall's first attempt, but both Mohammed Seye and Quinn McNeill missed their attempts, and that allowed Marshall to win in sudden death. Seye's miss was off the post and McNeill's was blocked by the keeper. Manion got a hand on a second shot and nearly blocked another, and that is how close it was between elimination and the Elite 8 for the Tigers. It should be noted that Seye and McNeill, the two who missed, are big reasons the Tigers got as far as they did. McNeill scored the opening goal against then No.1 Pitt a couple weeks ago, which got them the No.1 seed, and Seye scored the tying goal against American in the Tigers' previous NCAA game, allowing them to advance to the Sweet 16.
It's a tough way for the Tigers to go down after a tremendous season in which they were arguably the best team in fall and spring combined. I'm sure Noonan will wonder what might have been as he awaits the start of the fall season. What if the Tigers had home field advantage at Riggs, where they were virtually unbeatable, as they should have as the No.1 seed in a normal year? What if they played the NCAA Tournament in the fall as they have every other year, before the Tigers lost 3 of the nation's best players? Coach Noonan might have won that elusive national title if not for the pandemic, but fortunately he has a great team coming back and will only have a couple months to dwell on those questions before getting ready for the fall season.
Post-game interviews are below.
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