An ACC clash kicked off the Men’s College Cup on Friday with No. 2 Clemson against No. 6 Syracuse for a spot in the NCAA title game at Sporting Park.
Defense dominated play, but the Orange got a few solid chances around the goal. However, after struggling to a 0-0 tie for 110 minutes the game went to penalty kicks, where Clemson's T.J. Casner landed the winning kick before his teammates mauled him on the field. The Tigers finally moved on with a 4-1 advantage in PKs.
“When I first stepped up to kick it I had my side chosen,” Casner said. “I guess the craziness is just like you expect it after, everyone’s happy, but it’s subsided and it’s time to focus for the real prize on Sunday.”
The real savior for the Tigers though was goalkeeper Andrew Tarbell who had a season-high eight saves and stopped one on the penalty kicks. Despite some breaks in the defense, Tarbell was always there to stand on his head and stop the Syracuse Orange from taking the advantage. He even had one go off his chest in the second half, stopping the Orange from scoring.
“That’s one you don’t even think about," Tarbell said of that save. "You got to be instinctual, just to come out and say ‘I’m there” and make myself big.”
Clemson coach Mike Noonan could not be happier with his team's grit despite a difficult time on the offensive end of the field.
“We weren't assertive, we were reactive, we didn’t anticipate things,” he said of the offense. “And you have to give Syracuse the credit because they defended exceptionally well.”
Syracuse dominated the box score with 12 shots, including eight shots on goal, but just could not get one past Tarbell.
“Andrew Tarbell in between the pipes gives everybody on this team confidence,” Noonan said.
Now Clemson moves onto the NCAA final where it hopes to have one more game to finish off its special run.
“They understand when they play well and they understand when they don’t play well,” Noonan said. “They’ll look at and try to be better. That’s all we’ve tried to do all year is get to the next week, get to the next game because we want to be better and that’s the type of people we have.”