Note: The following appears in the August 2019 issue of Orange: The Experience.
Heading into the 2019 campaign, the Clemson women’s soccer program is looking to carry over the strong momentum the Tigers had at the tail end of their 2018 season. Head Coach Eddie Radwanski, who is entering his ninth season at the helm of the Tiger program, returns 18 players who combined for 15,167 minutes, 72.4 percent of the team’s overall playing time, just a season ago.
The Tigers finished the 2018 season with a 12-9 record, earning their fifth straight NCAA Tournament berth under Radwanski and the program’s 19th all-time. Sam Staab and Miranda Weslake were two key parts of last year’s offense, with Staab’s 11 assists and Weslake’s nine goals. Staab, a 4-year starter, was also the anchor on the back line. On the defensive side of the ball, she helped hold teams to a 0.83 goals-against average in her career, while adding 33 assists offensively. She finished her career at Clemson in style, earning All-America honors, Scholar All-America honors and ACC Defensive Player of the Year and was selected as the fourth overall pick in the 2019 NWSL Draft. She is currently a starter for the Washington Spirit and earned two consecutive NWSL Team of the Month honors in May and June.
“Sam is currently killing it and playing very well for the Washington Spirit,” said Radwanski. “Similar to what I said in 2017 about replacing Claire Wagner, Kailen Sheridan, Catrina Atanda and the rest of their class, I would have the same message regarding Sam Staab. You can’t replace those players. Instead, others have to step up and leave their imprint out there, just as Sam did when Claire, Kailen and the rest of the 2016 senior crew moved on.
“In regard to our current group of returners, it will be a collective effort by all, but I will say that I am expecting and putting my trust in Dani Antieau and Sandy MacIver to lead our back line. They have experience as rising seniors and have grown through their process to be prepared for this.
“Another one who will step up is Sarah Osborne. I know what we will get from Sarah in regard to effort and battling every game. She leads by example, while Dani and Sandy are vocal and passionate about the game and this team. Being consistent throughout the season is something I know they are more than capable of.”
MacIver started 17 matches in 2018 for the Tigers, playing 1,548 minutes in net while recording ten wins. MacIver, who hails from Winsford, England, posted 52 saves, a 0.87 goals-against average and eight clean sheets. She earned her first All-ACC honor last season, landing a spot on the third team, while also nabbing a first-team spot on the All-Atlantic Region Team.
Antieau led the 2018 squad in minutes played with 1,793, starting in 20 of 21 matches on the back line. Her role on defense did not hinder her scoring efforts, however, as she netted two goals and assisted on another three. The product of Pembroke Pines, Fla., helped the defense hold opposing teams to 19 goals on the year, good for a 0.90 team goals-against average.
Offensively, Clemson returns leading scorer Mariana Speckmaier. The rising junior finished the 2018 campaign with 10 goals and two assists. In just two seasons as a Tiger, the standout forward has 17 goals and five assists, good for 39 points. She earned a spot on the All-ACC Second Team last season, her second ACC honor, as she was named to the ACC All-Freshman Team in 2017.
Five additional starters return in 2019 in seniors Osborne and Julie Mackin, junior Kimber Haley and sophomore Sydney Dawson. Mackin, a Castle Rock, Colo., native, is the only returner who started in all 21 matches a season ago.
The Tigers will have seven freshmen on the 2019 squad, each of whom has a chance to play a significant role.
“Our incoming class has the ability to give our team a lift right from the get-go,” said Radwanski. “I know they are eager and ready to contribute. This year, we will have the most depth we’ve had from an attacking standpoint since I’ve been here. Once we find our groove, I think we will score some goals and be a competitive team.”
The team has two road exhibition matches during the preseason against Furman on Aug. 13 and Liberty on Aug. 17, before the regular season begins on Aug. 22 at Historic Riggs Field against Utah. This will be the first time since 2014 that the Tigers start the season at home.
“We have some exciting challenges on the schedule this season,” said Radwanski. “Playing two Pac-12 teams, Utah and Oregon, with the season opener against Utah, is a great way to kick off the season. We have a tough road trip going to Nebraska and Creighton, but we feel these games, in addition to matchups against Coastal Carolina, Georgia and South Carolina, will help prepare us for play in the Atlantic Coast Conference.”
The ACC opener is Sept. 20, when the Tigers play host to Notre Dame. Clemson will then host the defending National Champion Florida State on Sept. 26. This will be a competitive game, as Clemson was one of only three teams to defeat the Seminoles last season. The final match of the 2019 regular season is scheduled for Oct. 31, as the Tigers will ship up to Boston College to face the Eagles.
“Our goal and my expectations for this season are simple. Be the best Clemson we can be, and we will be fine,” noted Radwanski. “That starts with each individual player and staff member being the best we can be, taking care of the little things, being prepared mentally and physically and being great teammates, people and servants to our community. Taking care of the little things will lead to things like scoring goals, getting shutouts and playing well. Winning is just a byproduct of all of this.”