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Paws up, paws down: Clemson defeats North Carolina in ACC Championship

William Stehn
The Tigers are bringing home the ACC Championship trophy for the first time since 2020; pictured is senior midfielder Brandon Parrish hoisting it over his head as the team celebrates.

The No. 4-seeded Clemson Tigers won the ACC Championship against the No. 7-seeded North Carolina Tar Heels in penalty kicks by a score of 1-1 in regulation time and 5-3 in penalty kicks at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, North Carolina. The Tigers were led by strong play from their star players and success in their penalty kicks. Here are the ups and downs from the game:

Paws up: Penalty kick perfection

When it came down to it, successful penalty kicks ultimately allowed Clemson to win the ACC title game.

Clemson went a perfect 5 for 5 in the penalty shootout against North Carolina thanks to a combined effort from Brandon Parrish, Ousmane Sylla, Joran Gerbet, Gael Gibert and Alex Meinhard. North Carolina, on the other hand, missed one of its four attempts.

Clemson was very successful in penalty shootouts in the ACC Tournament, as the Tigers also won the quarterfinals against Duke in this manner and finished the ACC Tounrmanet going 9 for 9 on penalty attempts in shootouts while holding opponents to 4 for 7.

Paws up: Sylla’s heroics

With less than 10 minutes remaining in the game and the scoreboard sitting at 1-0, the Tigers were struggling to gain offensive momentum. But in the 82nd minute, Sylla, Clemson’s star midfielder, scored off an assist from Gerbet to tie the game up at 1-1. This marked Sylla’s 10th goal of the season, tying him for second-most in the conference.

Sylla also converted on his penalty attempt during the penalty period of the game to help lead the Tigers to victory, earning himself the ACC Championship game MVP.

Paws down: Slow first half

Neither team was able to get on the board in the first half as both backlines battled to maintain a clean sheet. Although the half ended 0-0, the teams had a combined nine shots with three on goal. For a Clemson team that has outscored opponents 50-17 thus far in the season, such a low-scoring half speaks to the grit of both teams’ defense.

The Tigers had four first-half fouls against the Tar Heels, while North Carolina had three. Both teams also gave up two corner kicks, yet nothing came from those opportunities in addition to a fruitless offsides call on Clemson.

Paws down: Foul troubles continue for Clemson

The Tigers have had trouble with fouls throughout the ACC Tournament, and while they cleaned their play up slightly for the championship game, they still struggled to play a clean game against North Carolina.

Although Clemson had fewer than the Tar Heels’ 12 fouls, Clemson’s nine fouls did not help the team during regulation and overtime. In just the 66th minute, Clemson picked up two yellow cards when redshirt sophomore defender Adam Lundegard was penalized, followed by Gerbet just 30 seconds later.

In order to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament, the Tigers will need to play cleaner to allow opponents free scoring opportunities.

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About the Contributors
Luke Beard
Luke Beard, Asst. Sports Editor
William Stehn
William Stehn, Asst. Photo Editor
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