Late Clemson goal sinks Virginia in ACC Semifinal

Courtesy UVA Media Relations

No. 2 Clemson (7-2-1) was successful on a penalty kick in the 87th minute that proved to be the game-winner in a 2-1 Virginia loss in the semifinal round of the ACC Tournament on Wednesday (Nov. 18).

The Cavaliers finish their fall slate with an overall record of 3-4-1.

Clemson held a 1-0 lead for over 60 minutes of the match until the late game heroics of Axel Gunnarsson (Gothenburg, Sweden) leveled the match in the 85th minute. The sophomore striker scored his second goal of the season when he turned and fired a shot from tough angle near the top of the six that deflected off a Tiger defender and went over the head of the goalkeeper. The tally was eerily similar to his equalizing goal in last year’s ACC Championship match against Clemson.

The euphoria of the late, game-tying score would be short-lived as a foul was called on the Jeremy Verley for his defense of Kimarni Smith in the box. Luis Felipe Fernandez-Salvador was called on to take the penalty kick attempt which he converted to give Clemson a 2-1 lead.

Smith was responsible for the match’s first goal and recorded a hat trick in the first half of Clemson’s quarterfinal match against Virginia Tech. Smith corralled a pass at the short post that hit off the leg of a Cavalier defender and put the Tigers up 1-0 in the 23rd minute.

“I felt like we stayed in it (our system), Clemson is a good team,” head coach George Gelnovatch said. “As the game went on, we were able to string some more passes together and get after them a little bit more. I felt that would lead to some chances in the second half strictly due to the fact that they expended some energy defending us in the first part of the game and ultimately it did. Overall I thought we managed the game well.”

The latter portion of matches for Virginia have been a roller coaster this Fall. The Cavaliers have scored four goals after the 76th minute, including a 90th minute score by Nick Berghold against Pitt on Oct. 18. On the flip side, Virginia has surrendered four goals after the 86th minute, including two golden goals in extra time.

Goalkeeper Colin Shutler (Middleburg, Va.) made six saves and faced 13 Clemson shots. He now has 129 career saves moving him into 10th place all-time on Virginia’s career saves list.

“There are a lot of positives to take from this fall segment,” said Gelnovatch. “From the beginning of year, I think we made a lot of progress that will help us prepare for the spring championship segment.”

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