ND Women’s Soccer
Irish fall to Clemson in ACC Tournament semifinal
Noah Cahill | Friday, November 3, 2023
The Notre Dame women’s soccer team capped off an outstanding season with a statement win against the Clemson Tigers that secured them the No. 2 seed and a bye for the ACC Tournament. However, after not playing a single match for an entire week, they were set for a rematch with the Tigers in the ACC Tournament semifinal.
Mackenzie Duff’s second-minute goal for Clemson was enough in a 1-0 first-round victory over Wake Forest, setting up the much-anticipated rematch with the Irish. Amid tournament action, United Soccer Coaches released an official Top 25 placing Clemson 7th and Notre Dame 9th, adding to the drama ahead of the NCAA tournament, where the final position in the rankings can impact how many rounds a team may host.
The match did not disappoint. In an end-to-end thriller, the Tigers got their revenge, defeating the Irish 3-2 and advancing to the ACC Tournament final. After a flurry of chances to start the first half, Clemson took the lead through Megan Bornkamp’s header in the 22nd minute. A third-team All-ACC honoree, Bornkamp has been a big part of Clemson’s attack and notched her third goal of the season in a big moment. The Irish would grow into the game and create more chances throughout the half, but went into halftime trailing 1-0.
However, a Maddie Mercado stunner from about 25 yards out leveled the score at 1-1 early in the second half. It was the eighth goal of a very successful season for the graduate student forward. Clemson answered back three minutes later when Tatum Short scored with the help of a deflection. Short has been one of the standout freshmen for Clemson, earning a spot on the ACC all-freshman team. The goal was Short’s third goal of the season. Clemson doubled their lead when substitute Maria Manousos was brought down in the box by Irish midfielder Sophia Fisher. Caroline Conti, a third-team All-ACC selection, subsequently fired home the penalty into the top left corner to give Clemson a 3-1 lead with 25 minutes remaining.
The remainder of the half was all Notre Dame. After some brilliant buildup play, ACC all-freshman team selection Morgan Roy slotted one home to cut the deficit to one. A dominant run full of chances followed, none better than the two that fell to Irish forward Kiki Van Zanten. After a prolific season scoring six goals and providing three assists to earn a first-team All-ACC selection, Van Zanten is exactly who Notre Dame would have wanted in front of goal. Unfortunately for Van Zanten and the Irish, the chances went begging and the comeback fell short.
Questions might be asked about whether or not the team was rusty after not playing for an entire week. But in the end, Clemson won a game between two great teams who performed very well on the big stage. Notre Dame will turn their focus to preparing for the NCAA Tournament, where they will hope to take what they’ve learned from a challenging loss and use it to make a deep run.