Clemson Claims Heart-Stopping Win over South Carolina 9-8
Apr. 1, 2012
Clemson, SC: I figured I needed to get this recap out ASAP after the game of last Friday (3/30/12), which was yet another classic Clemson-USC hook-up! Fortunately, we prevailed on a diving goal by senior midfielder Dan Huettenmoser with 14 seconds left in the game to give the Tigers a 9-8 win.
A lot of one goal games are nip and tuck the whole way from start to finish. Last years’ OT win over the Gamecocks was that kind of game, as neither team led at any point by more than 1. The 2012 edition was a horse of a different color. After a tight 1st quarter that ended knotted at 1 all, Clemson scored twice in the 2nd to head into half time up by a skinny 3-2 margin at halftime.
The 3rd quarter was all orange and purple as the Tigers dominated possession and posted 4 goals while shutting out the Gamecocks en route to a 7-2 margin at the end of 3. Just as the sun had shined on the Tigers in the 3rd , it began to favor the ‘Cocks as the 4th period unrolled. USC punched in a couple of goals to narrow the Tiger lead to 7-4 before sophomore defenseman Harry Luttrell assisted Will Patch about 5 minutes into the 4th to get the lead back to 4 at 8-4.
At that point everything started to go the Gamecocks’ way: possessions, face-offs, bounces, you name it. They converted their opportunities to knot the score at 8 with a little over 2 minutes remaining and had all the momentum flowing their way. The crowd had swelled and became more and more raucous, their bench was fired up, and the Tigers were in hold-back-the-tide mode, which is always tough to do in an arch-rival game, especially on the road.
Fortunately, the Tigers were able to gain possession and opted to play for the final opportunity. The way things were going, the last thing we wanted to do was give the ball back to the Gamecocks. We figured the worst we could do was go into OT. We set up our offense in an invert set, putting our middies behind the goal against the USC short stick defenders, hoping that this would put their players in an uncomfortable position with which they were not accustomed; the intent was also to remove their middies from the transition game should we turn the ball over.
The Tigers’ offense got off a couple of decent shots that were off the mark but were able to sustain possession. As the clock ticked down, 18, 17 ,16 15,… middie Dan Huettenmoser found himself with the ball just behind goal line extended on the bench side of the goal. Huettenmoser dove across the GLE and bounced a low shot at the cage. Frankly, I couldn’t see the ball go in the cage so I can’t tell you whether Dan five-holed the keeper or if the shot went in clean or was deflected. I can say I could see Tiger sticks lifted in jubilation but my eyes were on the official running down GLE to the goal. It wasn’t until his hands went up in the “touchdown” position that I was ready to believe we had pulled off another classic win over USC.
We still had 14 seconds left which in lacrosse can be an eternity. For the last face-off, out limped freshman Charlie Pontiakos, who had aggravated a hamstring injury early in the 3rd and had been on the sideline icing the leg during USC’s rally. Though Charlie couldn’t run worth a lick, he could still work his magic at the “X” and that he did, tying up the ball for precious seconds until Ryan Conlon gained possession of the ball and the win for Clemson as the buzzer sounded.
To me, one of the magical aspects of lacrosse is the ability of teams to go on streaks, to rack up a series of points in a short time, and to make a runaway into a neck and neck race to the finish. We’ve been on both sides of a rally but Friday night in Columbia was a particularly tough one as the ‘Cocks fought their way back into it, spurred on by a passionate home crowd. I have to admit that the sudden silence which followed Huettenmoser’s goal was very, very sweet. I do know how much it hurts to come so close but not get over the hump, and I give a ton of credit to the South Carolina players and coaches for never saying die. They gave us everything we could handle when a lot of teams would have cashed it in. Our hats are off to them.
Our players can take an awful lot of pride in the fact that this year’s seniors will be the second class in a row that can say they have never lost to Carolina. This was our 5th spring game win in a row and 10th overall over the ‘Cocks counting fall games. In fact, the only folks attached to the program these days who have tasted defeat at the hands of USC are myself and assistant coach Andy Campbell.
Scoring by Quarter:
Clemson 1 2 4 2 9
1 1 0 6 8
Patch (3g, 1a), Buechele (2g, 2a), Ahern (2g, 1a), Brennan (1a), Fochtmann (1g), Huettenmoser (1g), Kilbourn (1a), Luttrell (1a)
Branton: 10 saves, 8 goals against / .556 save percentage
Pontiakos: 10 of 13
Conlon: 1 of 4
Sophomore Harry Luttrell notched an assist on a feed to Will Patch for Clemson’s 8th goal.
Will Patch and Chris Buechele continue to log multi-point games. TJ Ahern joined the party, racking up 3 points on 2 goals and an assist.
7 of Clemson’s 9 goals were assisted. Perhaps ironically, Huettenmoser’s game winner was one of the two unassisted goals. No fear, we’ll take 'em however we can get them.
Sophomore goalie Alex Branton had a marvelous session in the 4th period, making 2 outstanding saves in succession, but the Tigers couldn’t control the rebound and the Gamecocks finally scored on their 2nd put back attempt. The end result in no way cheapened the quality of the saves beforehand.
The team car pooled to the game and I can’t say this worked to our advantage. We had one car break down and ultimately arrive after the game had started and a number of players were caught in a back-up due to an accident just before getting to Columbia. They made it in time for game but were definitely not in game-ready state of mind when the whistle blew. For big games like this, I think we’ll insist on motor coach transportation in the future.
With the win over USC, Clemson has won the NorthEast Regional Championship and clinched a number 1 seed in the 2012 SELC Championships. The Tigers will open play Friday, April 27th in the quarterfinal round against the #2 seed from the NorthWest Region which has yet to be determined. This marks the second consecutive year that Clemson has finished regional play undefeated and taken a #1 seed into the SELC Championships. CONGRATULATIONS to the TIGERS!
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