Thornton's Two Goals Lift Clemson Over Virginia Tech, 2-0, in First-Round of the Men's Soccer ACC Championship Game
Nov. 10, 2009
CARY, N.C. - Clemson senior forward Nathan Thornton scored two second-half goals to lead the ninth-seeded Tigers to a 2-0 win over eighth-seeded Virginia Tech in the first round of the 2009 Atlantic Coast Conference Men's Soccer Championship in Koka Booth Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C.
"I'm very happy for the guys," said first-year Clemson head coach Phil Hindson. "It prolongs the season another day and we'll see what happens tomorrow. It was a good performance and they worked really hard. We're just happy to move on."
With the win, the Tigers improve to 6-11-1 overall and advance to the quarterfinals where they will play Wake Forest, the top-seeded team in the championship. The loss ends Virginia Tech's season at 5-12-2 overall.
Scoring opportunities were abundant for both teams in the first half, as Clemson and Virginia Tech combined for 12 corners kicks and matched each other with six shots apiece. The Hokie attack looked to junior midfielder Clarke Bentley for two shots, both of which were on goal. Clemson freshman forward Brannon Blanke countered with two shots of his own, but neither was able to capitalize on the chances.
"[Both] Clemson and Virginia Tech had multiple scoring opportunities," said first-year Virginia Tech head coach Mike Brizendine, "and we knew whoever capitalized first would have the best chance of winning this game. Unfortunately, it wasn't us. I give credit to Clemson and Phil [Hindson] for what they have done, and I wish tem the best of luck."
Despite the offensive pressure, defense seemed to be the mindset in the first half, as neither team gained a decisive advantage in the opening frame. Virginia Tech senior goalkeeper Stefan Caulfield notched two saves and fended off five corner kicks, while Tiger senior goalkeeper Joseph Bendik made one stop and defended seven corner tries.
The attack quieted in the early going of the second half until the 65th minute when Thornton teamed with freshman forward Austin Savage for a goal that gave Clemson a 1-0 lead. Savage tallied his third assist of the season when he found Thornton in the center of the box and set him up for the game's first goal.
Savage would bring the crowd to its feet two more times in the second half. In the 74th minute, Savage made an open-field break for the goal with only one defender to beat, but Caulfield made a diving save to prevent the score. Four minutes later, Savage fired another close-range shot, but could not connect.
Thornton sealed the victory for the Tigers in 86th minute when he put Clemson up, 2-0, with his second goal of the game and team-leading eighth of the season. Thornton received the ball near the sideline and, moving to his left, weaved through defenders to the middle of the field for a favorable shot, which found the back of the net.
Virginia Tech out-shot the Tigers, 15-12, and held the advantage in corner kicks by a 12-5 margin. Bendik logged all 90 minutes in the box for Clemson, collected five saves, and recorded his third shutout of the season. For the Hokies, Caulfield made four saves in 90 minutes of action.
"They're [Wake Forest] an exceptional team and they do an incredible job with their program," said Hindson. "We'll try and get some rest and get the guys as healthy as we can and see what we can do."
Clemson will play top-seeded Wake Forest in the quarterfinals on Thursday, November 11 in Koka Booth Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park at 5:30 p.m. The winner of that game will advance to the semifinals to play the winner between fourth-seeded Maryland and fifth-seeded Virginia.
For complete coverage, including the bracket and game results, visit theACC.com. Also make sure to check out the 2009 ACC men's soccer Championship page or follow ACC men's soccer on Twitter @theaccchamps.