For the second time this season, the No. 3-ranked Clemson men’s soccer team came out victorious against in-state rival South Carolina.
Clemson senior midfielder Alex Happi was the hero as he scored twice – the first time to send the match into overtime, and the second to secure a 2-1 victory in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday.
“When a goal gets scored, you know, it kind of changes things a little bit. We went into a mode where we were trying to close the game out and they were able to equalize,” USC coach Mark Berson said. “In overtime, it’s anybody’s game. It’s a situation where they found a way to make a play.”
Clemson (13-3- 5) advances to face No. 14 Albany on Sunday in the Sweet 16. The Tigers also beat the Gamecocks 2-1 during the regular season.
The Gamecocks (11-8- 1) started off strong, controlling play with seven shots and five corner kicks in the first half, but were unable to convert their opportunities into goals. Defensively, they limited the Tigers to six shots and one shot on goal in the first half.
USC’s goal came in the 73rd minute when Clemson goalkeeper Ximo Miralles scored on himself, tapping the ball backward into the net as USC threatened in the box.
“We kept pressure on them in the top half of the field. We were able to do that on and off during the course of the match,” Berson said. “We tried to pick our moments. We did pick our moments and there was a little bit of a misplayed ball on their part and that’s what resulted in the goal.”
Happi nailed a bullet past USC goalkeeper William Pyle from 8 yards out to tie it 1-1 in the 85th minute to force extra time. With the momentum in Clemson’s favor, Happi delivered a dagger past Pyle again in the 93rd minute to seal the match.
“I think for us it’s not about who gets what, but how we get it as a team,” Happi said. “Yes, I got the opportunity against Boston College and today, but against Albany, I know somebody else is going to step up. As a group, we are really confident.”