CLEMSON, S.C. — The 60th edition of one of college soccer’s most esteemed rivalries is set to take place on Wednesday, Nov. 18, as the Clemson Tigers (6-2-1) face the Virginia Cavaliers (3-3-1) in the first semifinal match of the 2020 ACC Tournament. The two sides will meet under the lights of Dorrance Field in Chapel Hill, N.C., with kickoff set for 6 p.m. on ACCN. Clemson enters the match as the third seed from the ACC’s South Region, while Virginia carries the fourth seed from the North Region.
Wednesday’s match will be Clemson’s 17th appearance in the tournament’s semifinal round, with the Tigers trying to make their ninth appearance in the conference’s championship match. With a victory over the Cavaliers on Wednesday, Clemson will earn its 25th all-time victory in the series, making Virginia the eighth school that Clemson has defeated 25 or more times in the program’s 61-year history.
Clemson and Virginia first played on Oct. 22, 1968, in Charlottesville, Va., with the match finishing level at 2-2. Since then, both programs have gone through respective eras of great success, as the teams have come together for 15 top-10 matches since 1982. Clemson holds the longest win-streak in the series, having won twelve consecutive matches from 1971 to 1982, allowing only two goals during the streak.
Since the turn of the century, the two sides have seemingly shared control of the series, as neither side has won three consecutive matches since 1996.
The Tigers and Cavaliers share a deep history within the ACC Tournament, as Wednesday’s match will be the 10th in conference tournament play. In the first nine games, the two sides had met once before in the semifinals, playing to a 2-2 result in 1994. Wednesday’s semifinal will be the third time the teams meet in Chapel Hill during the ACC Tournament, with the last occurrence coming in 1993.
Clemson and Virginia have played once before on Nov. 18, as the Tigers captured their 13th ACC Championship on this date in 2001, defeating the Cavaliers, 1-0, at Historic Riggs Field.
The two teams most recently played on Nov. 17, 2019, in the ACC Championship match, billed by national media as the “Match of the Century,” as Clemson entered as the nation’s top-ranked squad while Virginia was ranked second. Despite an early goal from James Brighton, Virginia walked away the victor.
Patrolling the touchline on Wednesday night will be two of the nation’s top coaches. Noonan and Virginia’s George Gelnovatch are currently ranked 12th, and 11th, respectively, amongst active D-I coaches for most career wins. Both coaches rank within the top-30 nationally for best win-percentage amongst active D-I head coaches with a minimum of five years experience.
After an exhilarating 4-1 victory over Virginia Tech on Sunday afternoon, the Tigers return to game action. Kimarni Smith led the Tigers’ offensive charge, netting his second-career hat-trick and just the second hat-trick in ACC Tournament history. Smith later contributed to James Brighton’s goal in the 56th minute, giving the senior forward seven points on the day. Smith’s seven points set an ACC Tournament record for most points in a match.
Grayson Barber was credited with an assist on Clemson’s second and fourth goals, giving the junior forward a share of the team’s record for most assists in an ACC Tournament match. Barber joins Rivers Guthrie and Oliver Shannon, who each had two assists during their team’s runs in 1994 and 2017, respectively.
The winner of tomorrow’s match will face the conference’s second semifinal winner, with that match featuring top-ranked Pittsburgh and Notre Dame. This match will be played in Raleigh, N.C., with kickoff slated for 8 p.m., on ACCN. The ACC Championship match will be played at WakeMed Soccer Park on Sunday, Nov. 22 at noon.
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