Atlantic Coast Conference Men's Tournament - A Look At The Quarterfinal Contests

The Atlantic Coast Conference men’s soccer tournament gets underway on Sunday, November 15 with the top four seeds in the north and south divisions squaring off at campus sites.

Virginia Tech (#2 North – 3-1-2) vs Clemson (#3 South – 5-2-1) – This is hands down the most challenging and interesting quarterfinal matchup.

Time flies by. It is hard to believe that this is Mike Brizendine’s 12th season as the head coach at Virginia Tech and Mike Noonan’s 11th season as the head coach at Clemson. Both inherited a challenging situation and both in their own way have taken their programs to new heights.

Virginia Tech comes into this contest off impressive wins on the road over Louisville 2-1, Notre Dame 1-0 and rival Virginia 1-0. Clemson comes into it off a 3-3 tie at home against North Carolina in which they allowed the Tar Heels to come from a two-goal deficit and a 2-0 loss on the road to Wake Forest in which the effort was there but they never seemed to get in gear.

The shorter season, the unprecedented conditions, and the pretty much conference only schedule has impacted the ability of teams at times to settle into and maintain a rhythm and find the right balance between offensive pressure and defensive stability. That has contributed to a lack of consistency and the inability of teams across the board to put together two solid halves of play.

This one looks to be a game of momentum with the potential for ebbs and flows in the contest. The side that wins the battle of the middle third should prevail. Clemson junior Luis Felipe Fernandez-Salvador and Virginia Tech sophomore Daniel Pereira are among those who will play a key role in the battle for possession in the middle third.

Senior Kimarni Smith, junior Grayson Barber and sophomore James Brighton will power the Clemson attack. Seniors Kristo Strickler and Jacob Labovitz provide offensive firepower for Virginia Tech.

The one and done environment of the tourney will likely make the play a little conservative in the early going but look for the intensity of the match to pick up as the game progresses. A run and gun faster paced multi-goal contest will favor Clemson. The Tigers will prevail if they are able to apply pressure on the offensive side of the ball without leaving themselves vulnerable on the defensive side of the ball. A more controlled tempo will favor Virginia Tech.  

Both teams will come into this one rested. Virginia Tech has the disadvantage of playing on the road but the fact that they come into this one after winning three ACC games in a row on the road during an eight-day span may make that a non-factor.

Notre Dame (#3 North – 4-3-0) vs. North Carolina (#2 South – 3-1-2) – This one will be played in Chapel Hill. It is worth noting that this is only Notre Dame’s second road game of the year. Their only other away game this season was back on October 3 when they were defeated 2-1 by Louisville. Whether or not that has any impact on the game remains to be seen.

The Irish come into this one off a dominating 4-1 win over Louisville during which they effectively applied pressure from the get-go. Notre Dame’s calling card in the past has been solid play on the defensive side of the ball. Their effectiveness in this one will hinge on the ability of backs Philip Quinton, Paddy Burns, Senan Farrelly, Townsend Meyer and Mohammad Abualnadi and netminder Keagan Mclaughlin to keep the Tar Heels in check.  Forward Jack Lynn (6g, 0a) is the guy who will power the Irish attack. The key for the Irish is to play simple, avoid costly letdowns, and do the things well that have worked for them all year.  

The Tar Heels come into this one off a 3-3 tie with Clemson, a 0-0 tie with NC State and a 2-0 win over Duke.  North Carolina has scored a total of eight goals while only allowing four in six games to date. Three of the eight goals they scored and three of the goals they allowed came in their 3-3 tie on the road with Clemson.

UNC has played well but still look to be a team that is trying to find the right balance between applying pressure and getting numbers forward while remaining organized on the defensive side of the ball.  The Tar Heel defense lead by backs graduate students Joe Pickering and Filippo Zattarin and seniors Matt Constant and Mark Salas and netminder Alec Smir will give the Tar Heels the edge in this one. In other words, solid play on the defensive side of the ball will enable North Carolina to push forward and comfortably and consistently apply pressure up top.

Both teams will seek to find space over the top that they can exploit. Notre Dame forward Jack Lynn looks to be the most explosive player on the pitch and could cause trouble for the Heels. Forward Giovanni Montesdeoca (1g, 1a) is among the players the Tar Heels will look to for offensive punch.

It will take two solid halves of play to prevail in this one. Nonetheless, whoever scores first and places their opponent in a situation where they have to chase the contest will have a huge advantage.  

#4 Virginia (#4 North - 2-3-1) vs. Wake Forest (#1 South - #1 South – 7-1-0) – Virginia comes into this one off a disappointing and somewhat lackluster 1-0 loss to in-state rival Virginia Tech.

This is a good but young Virginia team that is in reload mode. Their two wins were over Louisville 2-1 and Syracuse 1-0. The fact that they are very competitive is reflected in the fact that their first four contests went into overtime.

The Cavaliers have traditionally been a thorn in the side of Wake Forest so an upset is not out of the question but it will require them to play their best game of the year. You can count on George Gelnovatch having a game plan that will give his team the best opportunity to win. The question is whether or not they can execute it.

Look for Virginia to focus on solid team defense and seek to find an opportunity in which they can effectively counter. Sophomore Philip Horton is among the keys to the Virginia attack up top. Seven different players have scored the seven goals that Virginia has played in the back of the net to date.

Wake Forest is a great possession-oriented team. They do a good job of knocking the ball around and finding a seam that they can exploit. The key every year for the Demon Deacons is finding the right balance between offensive pressure and stability on the defensive side of the ball. So far, they have done that done better than any other team in the fall season.  Wake Forest has scored a total of eighteen goals and only allowed five in their eight games.

Junior Kyle Holcomb (5g, 1a), senior Machop Chol (3g, 2a) and sophomore Calvin Harris (4g, 2a) give the Demon Deacons a multi-dimensional offense up top. Isaiah Parente (1g, 4a) is among a very talented group of Wake Forest midfielders.  Goalkeeper Andrew Pannenberg anchors a Deacon defense that has only allowed a total of five goals in eight contests.

Duke (#4 South – 2-5-0) vs. vs. Pittsburgh (#1 North – 5-0-0) – Dali Soccer Stadium in Raleigh is the venue for this contest.

Duke has two conference wins over NC State with losses to Clemson, Wake Forest and North Carolina twice. The Blue Devils have pretty much played everyone close but their inability to finish the opportunities that they have had in the final third has hampered them.

This is an emerging Duke squad with several young players in key roles. However, a limited schedule against a very competitive slate of conference foes is not conducive to wins when going through a learning curve.

Graduate Student midfielder Jack Doran (3g, 0a) and senior Daniel Wright (2g, 0a) have been Duke top two goal scorers. Senior back Matthias Frick and senior goalkeeper Will Pulisic anchor the defense.

Pitt has been the surprise team of the 2020 fall season with an attack that has scored three goals or more in each of their five contests.

Pitt’s last two regular season contests with Notre Dame and Syracuse were cancelled which means the Panthers have not played a game since they defeated Louisville 4-1 back on October 23. That may result in a little untimely rust in their contest with Duke. Regardless, if they settle into a rhythm on the offensive side of the ball and avoid lapses in play on the defensive side of the ball they should prevail.

This is a team that has scored a total of seventeen goals in five games while also allowing eight. Sophomore midfielder Noel Valentin (5g, 1a), freshman forward Bertin Jacquesson (2g, 5a), sophomore midfielder Veljko Petkovic (3g, 3a) and senior forward Alexander Dexter (2g, 2a) are all capable finishers.

Pitt has made great strides under the guidance of Jay Vidovich and are a dangerous team to face but they remain a work in process. The fact that they are finding a way to win reflects the progress the program has made but they are a vulnerable team as reflected in their 3-2 win in overtime against Syracuse and their 3-2 win in overtime against Virginia in which they allowed the Cavaliers to come from two goals down to force extra time.

ACC Women's Tournament Quarterfinal Results And Semifinal Prognosis

Florida State faces Duke at 5:30 p.m. and North Carolina tangles with Virginia at 8 p.m. in the semifinals of the ACC Tournament on Friday, November 13, 2020 at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, North Carolina.  

Florida State 2 – Notre Dame 0 – A compact Notre Dame defense kept an explosive Florida State offense in check until junior midfielder Jaelin Howell drove a header into the far post out of a perfectly centered corner kick played in by sophomore forward Jenna Nighswonger in the final minute of the first stanza. Howell’s goal changed the trajectory of the contest and gave the Noles momentum heading into intermission.

Redshirt senior midfielder Clara Robbins gave FSU a 2-0 lead in the 78th minute when she skillfully one touched a loose ball from just outside the box and sent a low shot that glanced off  the right post and into the back of the net in the 78th minute.  

Florida State had a commanding 17 to 4 advantage in shots for the evening with a four to zero advantage in shots on goal. FSU has outscored its opponents 27 to 4 thus far with an impressive 161 to 27 advantage in shots.

The Seminoles improve to 9-0-0 and advance to the semifinals on Friday where they will square off with Duke.

FSU head coach Mike Krikorian stated, “I thought overall our team performed pretty well. We came in here and played a very hardworking and organized Notre Dame team. They made it difficult for us and they had a lot of numbers behind the ball and a great compact defense.”

The eight-seeded Irish gave it their best and made the contest interesting but at the end of the day it was not enough to secure the win. Notre Dame concludes the fall season with a 4-5-0 record.

Duke 1 – Clemson 0 – Duke gutted out a hard fought one goal win over a Clemson team that they also topped 1-0 when they faced each other in Durham during regular season play back on October 4.

The teams went into the halftime break scoreless. It appeared at that point like the contest would be decided by a single goal and it was. Senior forward Karlie Paschall fulfilled that prophesy during the 51st minute of play when she pushed down the right side to find the space and the angle needed to send a rocket just inside the near post after receiving a pass from freshman back Emily Royson.

Clemson pressed the attack from that point seeking to secure the equalizer but a stout Blue Devil defense kept the Tigers at bay. Clemson played with ten for the final five minutes of the contest when sophomore back Harper White was awarded a red card.

Duke head coach Robbie Church stated, “I’m so proud of the whole group, the collective toughness, and how we compete every time out.”

Duke had an eight to seven advantage in shots and both Duke netminder Ruthie Jones and Clemson goalkeeper Hensley Hancuff had a three save game. The shutout was Duke’s sixth of the season. 

The effort was there on both sides of the ball for both teams. This one could have gone either way but it came down to the fact that Duke was able to create and finish an opportunity and Clemson was not.

Duke improves to 7-3-2 and advances to face Florida State in the semifinals at 5:30 on Friday, November 13. Clemson concludes the fall season with a 6-4-0 record.  

Duke vs Florida State - 5:30 p.m. Friday, November 13. – The Blue Devils held their own when they faced the Seminoles in Tallahassee during regular season play. Jaelin Howell’s goal with only 14 ticks remaining in regulation gave the Noles a 1-0 win.

This one is going to come down to whether or not a determined Duke defense led by defenders Emily Royson, Mia Gyau, Delaney Graham, Taylor Mitchell and Caitlin Cosme and goalkeeper Ruthie Jones can contain an aggressive but very patient and disciplined FSU offense. 

Whoever gets on the board first will have the opportunity to set the pace in this one. Breakdowns on the defensive side of the ball will be costly. If Florida State can break the code on the Duke defense early then this will likely be a multi goal win for the Noles. FSU will not likely take their foot off the gas on either side of the ball having learned their lesson in that regard after squandering a two-goal lead and leaving Charlottesville with a narrow 4-3 win over Virginia during regular season play.

On the other hand, this is a Duke team with a lot of grit that will enter the game believing they can win it. The Blue Devils will need to put together two complete halves of play in order to have a chance to win. The longer Duke is able to contain FSU the greater their chances of pulling off an upset.

North Carolina 1 – Virginia Tech 0 – This was another gut check type contest. Credit the Hokies with a game plan, approach and bend but don’t break defense that gave them the best opportunity to prevail and kept the contest close. Nonetheless this one was all North Carolina.

The Tar Heels displayed the energy and focus that they needed to preclude any type of lapse in play that the Hokies could exploit. 

The score and style of this contest was the same as it was when the Tar Heels topped Virginia Tech 1-0 back on September 20 in Chapel Hill.  In that match UNC had a 19 to 3 advantage in shots and a ten to one advantage in shots on goal. Brianna Pinto scored the game-winner for the Tar Heels in the first meeting.

In the most recent contest, North Carolina had a 17 to 3 advantage in shots and Virginia Tech had a two to one advantage in shots on goal.  UNC also had a 15 to one advantage in corner kicks.

The good news for the Tar Heels was that their one shot on goal gave them the edge that they needed to secure the win. Junior midfieler Brianna Pinto once again contributed the game-winner with a header in the 26th minute of play with a double assist from Emily Fox and Sam Meza. The goal was Pinto’s fifth so far this year. 

North Carolina improves to 10-0-0 during which time they have found the back of the net 21 times while only allowing three goals. The Tar Heels advance to the semifinals where they will tangle with Virginia on Friday, November 13 at 8 p.m.

Virginia Tech concludes the fall season with a 5-8-0 record.

Virginia 4 – Louisville 1 – The Cavaliers scored twice in each half with sophomore forward Diana Ordonez leading the way with a hat trick. Her first goal came in the 20th minute from point blank range out of a counter with a helper from Alex Spaanstra. Ordonez was at the right place at the right time again in the 24th minute when she made it 2-0 after controlling a deflection in the box.

Louisville pulled one back in the 43rd minute when Emina Ekic placed a shot into the top left shelf of the net out of a free kick to close the gap to 2-1 heading into intermission.  

Ordonez scored for the third time in the 57th minute when she ran onto a long ball played over the top of the defense and placed it into the right post to make it 3-1 Virginia. Spaanstra added the final goal of the evening for the Cavaliers in the 71st minute with a nice helper from freshman defender Samar Guidry.

Virginia improves to 8-2-1 and advances to face North Carolina on Friday night. Louisville concludes the year with a 4-5-0 record.  

Virginia vs. North Carolina – 8 p.m. Friday, November 13 - Both of these teams have the ability to score in multiples if they get into a rhythm.

North Carolina is a very balanced, deep and consistent team. The Tar Heels have the advantage based on their effectiveness and organization on the defensive side of the ball.  A tenacious North Carolina defense anchored by goalkeeper Claudia Dickey and back Maycee Bell has only allowed a total of three goals in ten games to date. Virginia has allowed fifteen in eleven games so far. 

Forwards Diana Ordonez (7g, 4a) and Rebecca Jarrett (3g, 3a) lead the Cavalier attack. Brianna Pinto (5g, 2a) and Rachel Jones (4g, 3a) are UNC’s top goal scorers.  Look for the Tar Heels to apply pressure from the get-go and seek to dictate the pace of the match.

This one could be interesting particularly if Virginia is able to play through the pressure and get on the board first. A case could be made that the only team that can beat North Carolina this year is North Carolina. If the Tar Heels play to their potential and don't look past Virginia chances are pretty good that they will prevail.    

Pictures:  Duke and North Carolina Athletics 

PODCAST: Mike Noonan (Clemson)

Clemson head coach Mike Noonan joins Adam Zundell on this edition of the College Soccer News Podcast.                                   


Clemson head coach Mike Noonan joins the show this week to talk about getting the season up and running and the asssociated challenges. Noonan and host Adam Zundell also discuss building the Clemson program, including a brand-new facility, as well as the team's form heading into the upcoming ACC Tournament. 

Get these interviews “on the go” by subscribing to the podcast. You can subscribe on iTunes, or listen on TuneIn Radio, or to download the audio portion of this interview only, click here.