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Clemson headed to ACC Championship after dominant win over Louisville

Toby Corriston
Ousmane Sylla (10) and the team jump in celebration after the Tigers surged to a 3-1 lead in the first half against Louisville.

The No. 4-seeded Clemson men’s soccer team defeated the No. 9-seeded Louisville Cardinals in a dominant 5-1 showing in the ACC Tournament semifinals at Historic Riggs Field on Wednesday, sending the Tigers to the ACC Championship game for the fourth time in five years.

The Tigers were led by senior midfielder Ousmane Sylla, who had two goals for the Tigers within the first half.

Sylla scored his first goal unassisted in the 31st minute with a shot to the bottom left of the goal, giving the Tigers a 2-1 lead. Just five minutes later, he sent another shot into the top left off an assist from freshmen Remi Okunlola and Arthur Duquenne. At that point, Clemson was in firm control of the game with a 3-1 lead, which the Tigers never looked back from the rest of the way.

Okunlola and Duquenne were also major contributors for the Tigers — forward Okunlola opened the game for the Tigers with a goal in the 7th minute, and Duquenne, a defender, assisted three of Clemson’s five goals.

Clemson head coach Mike Noonan said he spoke to Sylla before the game, and his message to the midfielder was to smile and enjoy the night.

“You can see the talent — everybody can see the talent when you look at someone like Ousmane — it’s everything else that completes the player,” Noonan said. “That’s where all the intangible things, the hard work, the way he makes his teammates better, just coming to the facility every day and just doing what he does. So, he’s very, very special.”

Clemson’s offensive play wasn’t the only thing that propelled the Tigers into a win, as the defense made it difficult for Louisville to have scoring opportunities. Clemson held the Cardinals to just three shots, with only one of them being on goal. In comparison, the Tigers were able to get off 28 shots, with 18 of them on goal.

The Tigers played much cleaner against Louisville than they had in the quarterfinals against Duke, as they only committed 10 fouls against the Cardinals after a 23-foul game against the Blue Devils on Sunday.

Wednesday’s game marked the second matchup of the two teams in the 2023 season, as Clemson previously shut out the Cardinals 4-0 in early October.

Clemson will face the No. 7-seeded North Carolina Tar Heels in Cary, North Carolina, on Sunday at noon for the conference title. The Tigers last played North Carolina in October 2022.

Noonan’s keys to victory remain centered around rest, as well as studying up on the Tar Heels and growing from Wednesday’s performance.

“I’ve got to get to work doing some homework and studying them and looking at our performance tonight because as dominant as it was, there were gaps, and there are times where we need to point those out to the players and get them to recognize them,” Noonan said.

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About the Contributors
Luke Beard
Luke Beard, Asst. Sports Editor
Toby Corriston, Asst. Photo Editor
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