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Captain’s Corner No. 1

Sept. 21, 2000

Senior midfielder Mike Potempa has agreed to give fans an inside look at Clemson Men’s Soccer with his journal, Captain’s Corner. Be sure to check out to see what the Hunt Valley, Md. native has to say about the Tiger soccer team throughout the year.

The Duke Game

The night before playing Duke, I did a lot of thinking about my four years here at Clemson. Undoubtedly, during those four years, Duke definitely has been an obstacle for us as a team. My freshman year, we were the “hot ticket” on ACC live…the game was televised and we wound up losing 5-1. Jay Heaps had scored three goals on us, Wojtek missed a penalty, and Nathan scored on us as he collided with Matt Jordan about 25 yards outside of our goal mouth.

During my sophmore year, we traveled up to Duke with a 5-0 record (I think Indiana had just lost so we were #1 for the first time) and we suffered our first and only loss during the regular season 2-0. We dominated them in the first half to the point where I thought it would be impossible to lose.

The second half was a different story as we got stretched out, tired, and vulnerable. One of their reserves came on and hit an absolute bomb to the upper right hand corner, hitting the post and bouncing in. After the goal, we picked up the pace of the game a little bit and had some great chances of our own as Wojtek hit the post, Mark just barely missed a great header from the six, and Wojtek missed another shot that just went wide.

After all of our efforts, a collision occurs deep in our box along the baseline, the ball goes out of bounds at least 3 feet and as we are all sprinting up to the half way line for the goal kick, Duke players wind up sprinting towards our goal. Their player had kicked the ball back to the top of the six for the goal kick but no whistle sounded…Woodsy got a toe to it after sprinting back 20 yards or so but it just wasn’t enough. Jay Heaps wound up tapping it in to solidify the 2-0 victory and knocking us off the #1 ranking that we had worked so hard for.

We did eventually get them back that year in the ACC Tournament final as Lisi and Bauer connected for a great goal to go on to beat them 1-0…this time maintaining our #1 ranking. Junior year we weren’t as strong but we still outshot them here at Clemson 26-9 but wound up tying them 0-0. You have to give credit to their goalkeeper for his performance, he was unstoppable that day.

I felt that our preparation for the game was right where we needed to be. Practice was great all week, Wednesday proved to be a solid victory over Appalachian State, and we were ready to play at Duke. Hopefully our curse at Duke would end and we would be able to get our first ACC victory at their place and redeem the poor performance that we displayed against UNC the week before.

Everything indicated that we were ready to play before the game….our warm-up was sharp, everyone had the right attitude, and we were back to the Clemson of we used to warm up when Matt Jordan, Tony Williams, and Jeff Bilyk were here. I was excited to play and I had the feeling that we all were ready to battle for 90 minutes and play Clemson soccer.

Although the result didn’t turn out in our favor (3-2), it turns out that we were able to put together the best performance so far this year. Everyone was sharp, we were able to combine in the midfield, Gooch and Ricki were able to get around the back quite easily and we created chances nearly everytime we won the ball. If it weren’t for three mental errors, I truly felt that we played well enough to win.

We were able to keep them in their half, win 80% of the 50/50 balls, we won nearly every second ball in the midfield and we scored two great goals from Fabio and Pablo. You have to give credit to Jordan Cila for a great free kick and Ali Curtis for a tremendous individual effort as they both capitalized on our mistakes. All of this considered, it was encouraging to see that we didn’t give up until the final whistle was blown.

Although we are still quite young, it was good to see that no one panicked. We battled for 90 minutes and were able to put away two chances against one of the best teams in the ACC and the country. Even though we didn’t come away from Duke with a victory, our performance was more important in my eyes.

So far this year we haven’t put together a complete 90 minutes of how we want to play and with the exception of 3 mental errors, we all felt that this game was it. Now we have to regroup and get ready for Charleston Southern tonight. It should be interesting to see if we display some of the same characteristics that we showed against Duke and put together the same type dominating performance that we showed against them last Sunday. If we do that day in and day out, in the end, we’re going to be a tough team to beat.