Clemson’s Preseason All-America candidate Mark Lisi and senior midfielder Russ Kiefer give you updated analysis of the 1999 season in Corner Kicks.
Corner Kick Three– October25, 1999
After a very important week, things are finally beginning to turn around for us. We are currently riding a five game winning streak, including several tough matches against top-quality opponents. This weekend we posted two big wins against our archrival South Carolina and a very capable UNC-Charlotte team.
As always, the South Carolina match was a battle from start to finish. We played well and picked up a deserved win on a brilliant goal from Ian Fuller, with assists from Russ Kiefer and Jeremy Iwaszkowiec. The UNC-Charlotte match, as has happened several times in recent years, got rather ugly. We jumped out to a two goal lead at the half on two great goals from Ross Goodacre and Ian Fuller. The second half was played fairly even until a Charlotte player was red-carded for a disgraceful tackle on Matt Elliott. Things worsened from there, culminating in a blatant, brutal attack on Mark Lisi, which left him laying motionless on the field. The game was stopped for about 20 minutes as Mark was attended to and an ambulance arrived to take him to the hospital with an injured neck.
Obviously shaken up from what happened to Mark, we held on to the victory, despite giving up a late goal. Mark underwent some tests at the hospital, all of which were negative, and is OK now other than being very sore. It was a very scary and emotional scene for all of us.
So with all of that behind us we move on to the stretch of the season that will determine our fate. We play at Furman on Wednesday in another emotionally- charged match in which we must find a way to win the match. At this point we are approaching the remainder of the season as a single elimination tournament. We are looking at every game as our National Championship game. We understand the importance of every match from here on out and are confident in our abilities and excited about the opportunity we have to make a run at the tournament. Our team has really come together, not only on the field, but off it as well. Our chemistry is very good right now, with everyone fighting for each other. If we can continue to utilize that chemistry, there is no telling what this team can accomplish.
Corner Kick Two– October 5, 1999
We are now in the middle of a very demanding week of practice. Two main themes are dominating our sessions- fitness and finishing. Everyone is really determined to work on the areas of our play that need improvement. Even though our finishing at this point is the biggest area we need to improve on in games, in our practice sessions it has been pretty sharp. We need to learn how to translate that sharpness into game situations and become more composed when it really counts. The intensity of our games and training sessions is beginning to show in the training room. At one point yesterday we had eleven players undergoing treatment for some sort of injury. We are all doing everything we can to get healthy and be at full strength for this weekend against South Carolina.
Well, the weekend is now over and our problems continue. The first game of our Nike Clemson Invitational was a hard fought game in which we fell short against the 2nd ranked Broncos from Santa Clara. Leading 1-0 with only four minutes to play, we somehow found a way to give up two goals, the second with only 10 seconds remaining, and lose 2-1. Despite much talk within the team about using that loss to turn around our season and act as a springboard for the rest of the year, we turned in an uninspired performance against Akron on Sunday and lost 3-1. It looked as if the Santa Clara match took more out of us than we had realized.
Once again we need to somehow find a way to regroup and remain confident that we can and will turn this ship in the right direction and make a run for the NCAA tournament. As devastating as it is to see a 3-5-2 record next to our name, we all know what a talented group of players we have, and we are confident that these losses will only make us stronger in the end. In our preseason meeting before the first day of training, we set three goals for ourselves. First of all, we wanted to win the ACC tournament. Second, we wanted to secure a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament. And finally, we aspired to win a national championship. Although at this point a #1 seed in the tournament is pretty much out of the question, our two most important goals, an ACC and NCAA title, are still there for the taking. It will be very important in the next few weeks for us to keep that in mind and remain confident that it is well within our reach.
Corner Kick One — September 26, 1999
After what was a very difficult start to our season, three losses in our first four games, we have finally seemed to come out of our slump and ironed some things out within our team. Practice sessions have been sharper and our enthusiasm and excitement for the game has returned. Whereas training sessions had seemed to become a chore, everyone appears excited to be out on the practice field again. And this attitude has definitely translated into better performance in matches.
We are currently on a three game unbeaten streak which included a 5-0 win over Appalachian State, an undeserved 0-0 draw with 4th ranked Duke in which we took 20 shots but failed to score, and a 3-0 win over Charleston Southern. With all of those games being at home, it looks as if Riggs Field will once again be a very dangerous place for opposing teams to enter. The most encouraging part of these last three games is that we didn’t concede a goal in any of the matches. Our defense is getting back into the form that seemed to have slipped away early on.
On the attacking side, we have certainly shown the ability to create chances, but our finishing needs some improvement. We are working hard on that part of our game and are confident that it will come around soon. Coach Adair is looking for more mobility in the offensive third, which the team has been trying to improve on.
After a devastating tie to N. C. State, 2-2, we are expecting an intense and hard practice this week. We have two very important games this weekend in our Nike Clemson Classic. We play host to Santa Clara which is ranked #2 at the time and Akron. It is another step on the ladder as we continue our climb to regain the respect that we worked so hard to deserve and let slip away.
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