Women's soccer hold ACC rival to scoreless tie

This was the final game of the team's six-game home stand.

The Syracuse women’s soccer team ground out a hard earned 0-0 tie against Clemson on Sunday at SU Soccer Stadium. The point marks the Orange’s first in the ACC this season.

Despite the scoreline, the game was full of goalmouth action with 25 shots combined and 10 shots on goal, five for each team.

“In the ACC, you get fewer opportunities. We know that,” Syracuse head coach Phil Wheddon said. “We’ve got to make them count.”

The opportunities Coach Wheddon talked about were typified by a couple of moments between the 57th and 59th minute of the game.

In the 57th minute, a poor defensive clearance from Clemson was intercepted by forward Alex Lamontagne in the air and then headed on by defender Alana O’Neil. That header played in midfielder turned forward Georgia Allen in acres of space in the box. Allen attempted to chip the Clemson goalkeeper Sandy McIver, but the ball drifted just wide.

At the other end, a minute later, Clemson forward Mariana Speckmaier found some space in the left channel after a looping ball played her in on goal. Syracuse goalkeeper Courtney Brosnan was forced out of her box to chase the ball but ended missing the ball and colliding with Speckmaier in a challenge that grounded both of them briefly.

“It’s my responsibility to come out and clear the ball,” Brosnan said of the incident. “We just ran into each other and I took the foul.”

The challenge brought only a yellow card for the goalkeeper but it could have been red given she was the last defender.

Brosnan said she had to refocus for the ensuing free kick and, luckily for Syracuse, she did as Clemson senior midfielder Jeni Erickson forced a great save to Brosnan’s right. The Orange goalkeeper couldn’t hold on and Speckmaier tried to pounce on the rebound but Syracuse midfielder Opal Curless did just enough to force the shot wide.

That two minute period marked the best chances for both teams during the entire 110 minutes.

Clemson found most of their success on set-pieces. Both Erickson and defender Sam Staab put balls into the box whenever an advanced free kick was granted.

“They are really good on set pieces,” Syracuse midfielder Mackenzie Vlachos said. “We knew we didn’t want to give away too many.”

Vlachos was a big reason for limiting Clemson to resorting to set plays. She was constantly dragged across the space in front of the Syracuse back-line, mopping up loose balls and tracking advancing midfielders to allow the defenders behind her to do their job.

“I just wanted to hold my shape,” Vlachos said.

“[Clemson] play a lot of balls forward which definitely puts the back line and holding midfielders under pressure,” Brosnan added. “We did a really good job of recognizing that early and dropping in, staying compact.”

Brosnan did say that nobody is ever completely satisfied with a tie but for a Syracuse team that was beaten 4-0 by Clemson last season, the second tie against a ranked opponent marks some kind of progress for the Orange.

“Right down the middle of the field we have a tremendous amount of strength," Coach Wheddon said of his team. “We’re good int he air. We adapt to different ways of playing.”

Coach Wheddon added, “I do believe that we’re an NCAA calibre team.”

Syracuse will get to test that assertion in their toughest test this season next Saturday with an away trip to face #8 ranked North Carolina at 12 p.m.

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