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Clemson United College Cup path set to continue with clash against Stanford

Toby Corriston
Clemson midfielder Ousmane Sylla (10) dribbles down the field in Clemson’s second round victory over Charlotte in the NCAA Tournament on Nov. 19 at Historic Riggs Field.

Clemson United is on the cusp of its ninth College Cup appearance in program history, with the only thing left in the team’s way being a match against the No. 16-seeded Stanford Cardinals this Saturday at 6 p.m. for a final game at Historic Riggs.

Having secured a bye in the first round, the Tigers shut out the Charlotte 49ers 3-0 before traveling to New Hampshire. Head coach Mike Noonan was once at the helm of the Wildcats from 1991-1994, and this past weekend helped lead Clemson to a 1-0 victory to reach the Elite 8 of the NCAA Tournament.

“Riggs is a charmed place for this team, and we hope we get to play here again,” Noonan said following the victory against Charlotte.

Well, the team’s wish has been granted, as the Tigers are set to return to Historic Riggs Field for a quarterfinal matchup.

The key focus for the Tigers, both against Stanford and throughout the remainder of the NCAA Tournament, lies in establishing a halftime lead. Under Noonan, the Tigers have a 101-5-7 record when leading at halftime.

In order to take a halftime lead, the Tigers will need their high-powered offense to continue its powerful performance. The unit is headlined by standout midfielder Ousmane Sylla, who leads the team in both goals and assists with 12 and 10, respectively. Sylla has been instrumental in the team’s postseason success, scoring five goals, three of which were crucial tying or go-ahead goals.

“The goals and the assists are secondary to what he means for the team,” Noonan said. “It’s his smile, it’s his passion, it’s his love for his teammates. That, and the selflessness, that’s the word again, the selflessness that he displays every day at practice and when he comes to work every day.”

While Clemson’s offense, tied for the most goals (55) alongside Marshall, has been a longstanding program staple, the current postseason success is also attributed to a strong defense.

Freshman defender Pape Mar Boye, standing at 6-foot-1 and hailing from Senegal, has emerged as a dominant force in the defensive third for the Tigers, playing the fifth-most minutes and starting in 17 games.

His keen ability to be the first to the ball on anything in the air creates consistent turnovers and stops many scoring chances. Sustained solid play from Boye will be crucial for the Tigers to reach the heights they achieved two seasons ago when they raised the National Championship trophy.

Experience also plays a pivotal role in the postseason, and the Tigers’ head coach, Mike Noonan, brings a wealth of it to the table. With nine previous appearances in the NCAA Tournament with the Tigers and 11 instances with other programs, Noonan’s extensive postseason background is unparalleled. He has guided the Tigers to the College Cup twice, winning it once. As the Tigers aim for another national championship, Noonan’s postseason experience will be crucial to push them through the rest of the tournament.

If the Tigers beat the Cardinals this Saturday, they’ll head to Louisville, Kentucky, to face the winner between No. 5 West Virginia and Loyola Marymount University on Friday, Dec. 8.

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Toby Corriston, Asst. Photo Editor
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