After a disappointing loss in the ACC semifinals, Clemson received the second overall national seed for the NCAA Tournament. After sitting out the 1st round with a bye, the Tigers took on Elon Sunday night at Riggs Field.
While Kyle Fisher was still out with an injury, Aaron Jones made his return as starting right back, which moved Saul Chinchilla to the bench. Coach Noonan has stuck with an interesting lineup decision, starting Grayson Raynor and Michael Melvin over Diego Campos and Chinchilla. Coach Noonan may not start the Costa Rican duo but both of them still see substantial playing time off the bench. The move has definitely paid off so far so I expect the lineup to say like it is.
Clemson flexed offensive muscle Sunday night, beating Elon 5-2. This was the best Clemson looked in quite some time, at least on the attacking side. TJ Casner got the scoring started in the 28th minute with a rocket strike into the upper 90. . Thales Moreno came off the bench and scored the second goal of the match in the 38th minute. The Brazilian smashed a volley past the goalie into the far side netting of the goal.
The Tigers scored the third goal when TJ Casner cleaned up the rebound of an Iman Mafi free kick. His two goals during the game put Casner, the leading scorer, at 10 goals on the season. Saul Chinchilla and Iman Mafi finished off the scoring for the Tigers. Elon got a goal right after Clemson scored their third, and another a few minutes after the Tigers' fourth. Letting up two goals right after scores of their own indicates a loss of mental focus. However, I was very pleased with Clemson's overall performance.
Clemson still misses Kyle Fisher on the backline. Not only is he an excellent defender but he is also one of the team's clear leaders. If Clemson keeps up this kind of attacking performance then they have a good sot at making a deep run in the tournament. However, I still think the defense needs to improve just a bit more.
Clemson is back at home next Sunday night as they take on the #15 national seed UC-Santa Barbara Gauchos.
Unfortunately, the Women's team saw their season come to an end Friday night when they lost to Ole Miss in a penalty shootout. Clemson fell behind 1-0 late in the game but the Tigers were able to score a very late equalizer in the 90th minute. Clemson had a number of chances to score in the second half but were unable to convert until the last one.
The penalty shootout went all the way to the 7th round where Ole Miss converted their chance and stopped Clemson's last shot.
While the season had a disappointing finish, the women's program had their best season in over a decade. Coach Radwanski and the Tigers have continuously built upon the success of previous season and that trend should continue in the 2016 season. Clemson will return some very talented players next season and I expect the Tigers to once again make a strong push for an ACC title.