After going all the way to a penalty shootout against Wake Forest, Clemson did the same in the semifinals against Notre Dame. The Irish were ranked #2 nationally, #1 in the ACC and were the defending national champions. Notre Dame scored in the 26th minute, but one of the senior captains, Bobby Belair, scored a late equalizer in the 89th minute off a Paul Clowes corner kick. Due to Austin Burnikel's hamstring injury, Belair has not only seen his playing time increase, but he has also been placed in the starting lineup.
When the game went to penalty kicks, Chris Glodack once again replaced Andrew Tarbell in goal. The shootout went to the 7th round, where TJ Castner converted his kick to get the win. To be honest I wasn't very confident in Clemson heading into this game, and once they went down I thought they were going to lose. Notre Dame is one of the two best teams we have played all year and we lost to the other one, Syracuse.
Now for the title game.
Like Brian said, it was a pretty ugly game throughout. Louisville is a possession based team and they were able to keep the ball away from Clemson's aggressive press. There were times with good ball movement and possession but those were few and far between.
The Louisville goalscorer, Velazco, did a good job of beating Phanuel Kavita to the front post for the goal. Kavita is a lot bigger so you would expect him to be able to outmuscle Velazco. Velazco is very similar in style to Luis Suarez of Barcelona. They aren't true target forwards and work well as the off striker but can play up top by themselves. They're small, quick, skilled and constantly energetic.
Louisville really screwed the pooch on the free kick they had with about 30 seconds left. Rather than kicking the ball into a corner to waste time or trying to retain possession, Louisville just kicked it to where no one was. It allowed Clemson to have a free throw in and start one last attack. Maybe if Louisville's coach stopped wearing that ridiculous scarf they would win. Freshman Michael Melvin was the one who sent the cross into the box at the end of the game.
Before the season I thought this team had a good shot at winning the ACC Tournament. The defense was very solid and the Tigers returned a ton of experience. The only question mark was where would the goals come from. After struggles early on in the season, Clemson found goals from all over the team.
Clemson was already on a hot streak heading into the ACC Tournament but now they are white hot. I wouldn't be surprised to see an NCAA Tournament run if fatigue doesn't catch up to them. This team has tons of heart and self belief, even when they go down early.
As announced just a few hours ago Clemson will be the #7 seed in the NCAA tournament. They will host the winner of the FGCU-Coastal Carolina game. Clemson beat Coastal 2-1 in overtime earlier this season. If they make it past that game, they will play one of UNC, James Madison, or the #10 seed Charlotte. Clemson lost to Charlotte 1-0 and UNC 3-2 (2OT) earlier in the season. That UNC loss was especially frustrating. I think the Tigers can defeat any of those potential opponents at the moment. The highest ranked team on their side of the bracket is #2 UCLA, a powerhouse program.
Unfortunately the women's team had their season end with a loss to South Carolina. The game was scoreless through double overtime and went to PKs, where South Carolina won 4-3. Clemson had beaten South Carolina earlier in the year 1-0. A disappointing result to be sure but Clemson is a young team and the year as a whole was very successful.
Lastly, congrats to the Men's Club Golf team for their national title.