College Cup: Clemson Holds off WVU
In the later stages of a knockout tournament, all it takes is one moment of magic.
Clemson's Shawn Smart conjured up a special strike in Friday's national semifinal against West Virginia. His right-footed volley in the 37th minute proved to be the winner, as the Tigers secured a 1-0 win in Louisville.
Tense and tight like many College Cup matches, chances were sparse at the home of the USL Championship side Louisville City. West Virginia goalkeeper Jackson Lee had to be alert in the 20th minute, as Tyler Triminal had a chance on the doorstep that Lee deflected away with a sprawling leg.
The Mountaineers had a golden chance to open the scoring in the 30th minute. On the counter, Sergio Ors Navarro poked away a ball from a lunging Clemson defender. He found dangerman Yutaro Tsukada drifting into the box. As the forward faced the defender, Navarro looped his run into space. A reverse pass from Tsukada found Navarro, but Clemson goalkeeper Joseph Andema parried the shot away.
As the game drifted towards the half, seeming destined to be locked at 0-0, Smart made his moment. Chasing down a looped-in ball, Smart lifted the ball towards substitue Mohamed Seye. The No. 9 headed the ball back into the path of Smart, who lashed home the ball into the upper corner past Lee.
Tsukada and Marcus Caldeira both had early attempts on goal after the break, and the latter forced a save out of Andema in the 50th minute. The Canadian striker had what turned out to be the best WVU chance of the second stanza. In the 57th minute, he corralled a fiercely delivered cross in front of Andema's goal. However, was just unable to get over the fall, firing high of the frame.
From there, a defensive display of dominance from Clemson center back's Pape Mar Boye and Adam Lundegard kept West Virginia at bay. The Mountaineers were unable to record a shot after the 67th minute, with the most dangerous moment a penalty shout in the game's final five minutes.
With the final whistle, Clemson secured a second national title game apperance in three years.
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