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Nov 15, 2020

Smith Scores Three as Tigers Trounce Hokies, 4-1

DURHAM, N.C. — In the span of 18 minutes, Kimarni Smith secured victory for the fourth-ranked Clemson Tigers by registering the second hat-trick of his career. Clemson (6-2-1) defeated fifth-ranked Virginia Tech (3-2-2) by a final score of 4-1 in its ACC Quarterfinal match at Koskinen Stadium this afternoon, securing its place in Wednesday’s semifinal round.

Smith became just the second player in ACC Tournament history to score a hat-trick during a tournament match. Wake Forest’s Ihor Dotsenko was the first player to accomplish this feat in 1997 when he scored three goals during the first round of the tournament. Smith’s seven points (3g, 1a) during today’s match are the most ever in an ACC Tournament game.

Today’s victory was the 340th of head coach Mike Noonan’s storied career, one which spans 32 seasons as a collegiate head coach. Noonan now touts an overall record of 340-182-72, with his 340 wins making him tied for 12th amongst active NCAA Div. I head coaches for most career victories.

“We are happy to advance,” said Noonan. “Virginia Tech is a very good team. I think the score flattered us a bit. It was a day where we took our chances better than our opponent. In the tournament, it’s not how pretty the picture is as much as win and advance. I am proud of this team and I’m looking forward to Wednesday’s semifinal.”

The opening 15 minutes of the match saw Clemson dominate possession of the ball as Virginia Tech sat back defensively and attempted to pounce on counter-attack opportunities. George Marks made a spectacular defensive effort in the 13th minute to prevent Virginia Tech from capitalizing on a breakaway opportunity, keeping the match level at 0-0.

The Tigers first struck in the 16th minute thanks to the right foot of Smith, as the senior forward fired a shot into the bottom right corner of the goal off of a beautifully played ball from Mohamed Seye. Seye’s assist was his 20th career point.

15 minutes later, Grayson Barber skillfully maneuvered through a pair of Hokies along the touchline before distributing the ball to the feet of Smith at the top of the 18-yard box. Smith eluded two more defenders before using his left foot to fire home his second goal of the match into the bottom right corner of the net.

Less than three minutes later, Smith pounced upon an error made by a Hokie defender during a restart inside Virginia Tech’s 18-yard box. The senior calmly converted the one-on-one opportunity by gliding past Virginia Tech’s goalkeeper and tapping the ball into an empty net.

As the two sides emerged from halftime, Clemson continued to be relentless on the ball and was rewarded in the 55th minute by notching its fourth goal of the match. Another brilliant series of moves by Barber started the attack, as the junior escaped the Hokies’ defense and played the ball to the feet of Smith who quickly tapped it to an open James Brighton in front of the net, allowing Brighton to bury the ball into goal.

Virginia Tech’s lone score came in the 71st minute off the foot of Kristo Strickler.

Sunday’s victory makes the 2020 season the first year since 2006 in which Clemson has earned two victories against top-five opponents. The 2020 fall season has seen Clemson defeat top-ranked Wake Forest and fifth-ranked Virginia Tech.

In addition to notching his 340th career victory, Noonan improved to 49-0-2 at Clemson when his team scores three or more goals in a match. Clemson is also now 102-8-7 under Noonan when scoring first.

Clemson’s four goals against Virginia Tech are the most by a Clemson team in series history.

“We had terrific production out of our forwards today. Kimarni was electric, took his chances well and worked his tail off defensively,” said Noonan. “I thought Grayson Barber matched Kimarni, but the man of the match was definitely (Philip) Mayaka. He (Mayaka) was all over the field!”

Clemson will now wait to discover its semifinal opponent, determined during today’s 4 p.m. quarterfinal match between Wake Forest and Virginia. The Tigers’ semifinal site and kickoff time will be announced following the conclusion of today’s four quarterfinal matches.

For all of the most up-to-date information regarding Clemson men’s soccer, be sure to follow @ClemsonMSoccer on Twitter.

Photos credited to Natalie Ledonne, Duke Athletics.