A classic match-up of Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) powers will take place at 3 p.m. today at Riggs Field in Clemson, S.C. Clemson and North Carolina will square off to determine who will face the winner of the Harvard-San Diego St. match in the finals of the NCAA Men's Soccer Tournament tomorrow.
An abundance of top Southern soccer teams forced the NCAA selection committee to bump Clemson, an at-large tourney selection, into the Great Lakes region. The Tigers will meet North Carolina, upset winners of the ACC post-season playoffs, for the third time this season.
North Carolina (20-4-0) is riding a nine-game winning streak and defeated the Tigers in the two meetings earlier this year--once in the regular season and again in the Atlantic Coast Conference tourney.
Clemson (16-5-1) hopes to offset this edge with a weapon of its own in senior forward Bruce Murray. Murray, one of the top contenders for this year's Herman Award (college soccer's version of the Heisman Trophy), has led the Clemson offense with an amazing 19 goals and nine assists on the year.
Complementing Murray on the potent Tiger front line is freshman forward Pearce Torme, who has scored nine goals and assisted on four others for 22 points this season.
From the Northern end of the Carolinas, the Tar Heels will counter with two offensive powers of their own--namely forwards Derek Missimo (12-5-29) and David Smyth (7-8-22).
Having played underdog ball for most of the tournament, both Clemson and North Carolina have managed to pull off upsets while cruising through the playoffs.
Clemson, 2-1 victors over Indiana in the 1984 National Championship game, posted a stunning victory over the top-ranked and heavily-favored Hoosiers during the round of 16 two weeks ago. The Tigers defeated Evansville in the first round, and Rutgers in last weekend's quarterfinals.
UNC claimed the role of spoiler as it upset second-ranked Virginia in the ACC tournament to capture the conference title and an automatic NCAA bid.
The Tar Heels defeated defending champion Duke, third-ranked South Carolina, and Loyola, Md., to reach the Final Four for the first time in the school's history. North Carolina's only previous NCAA appearance was in 1968.
Both Clemson and UNC depend heavily on their respective goalies, Roberto Marinaro and Darren Royer, who have compiled similar impressive statistics. Marinaro has given up only 11 goals all season with 43 saves and a .780 goals-against-average. Royer has compiled a .810 g.a.a., with 67 saves and 10 shutouts on the year.
Clemson's newly-built Riggs Field, which can hold a crowd of up to 10,000, is the maximum 75 yards wide. North Carolina, whose home field is a slim 66 yards, could have trouble with the difference in dimensions, giving host Clemson a real home-field advantage.