The NC State women’s soccer team conceded another late goal to a ranked team in a 2-1 loss to the No. 22 Clemson Tigers on Thursday, Sept. 23.
The loss is the Wolfpack’s (4-4-2, 0-2-0 ACC) third in a row and fourth overall to a team that is either ranked or receiving votes. In five games against ranked teams this season, the Pack has lost four and drawn one. All four losses have been by just one goal, many which came in the dying minutes.
“Right now we're losing,” said NC State head coach Tim Santoro. “And yes, they're close and yes, we know we belong on the field but three of them, I think, have been in the last five minutes or less. That's what really is probably what makes it worse but we're losing. These are good players who want to win games and we can win games and we aren’t winning games so there’s not really a lot of consolation.”
The Tigers (7-2-0, 2-0-0 ACC) grabbed the late winner in the 85th minute as Renne Lyles converted from close range. After the ball hit the back of the net, the referee had a conversation with the linesman but the goal ultimately stood. After the game, Santoro said his players were adamant that the last player who touched it was offside, but he could not tell.
After the two teams headed into the break locked at 1-1, Clemson came out of the gates flying and outshot the Wolfpack 11-2 in the second half. Freshman goalkeeper Maria Echezarreta made a career-high six saves to help keep her team in it until the dying minute.
“For this game I only wanted to help my team as much as possible, and in this case I had to save it, other times I just have to talk to them,” Echezarreta said. “...Obviously it was not enough, so I just want to go back to training and get better.”
The Wolfpack got off to a very quick start thanks to a goal made in Munich. Freshman midfielder Annika Wohner and redshirt junior defender Lulu Guttenberger, both of whom joined the Pack from the Bayern Munich academy, linked up for the opener in the ninth minute.
A foreign connection 😎📺ACCNX pic.twitter.com/Dpl19lXMXS— PackWSoccer⚽️ (@PackWSoccer) September 23, 2021
The Wolfpack had a few more chances after its goal, but Clemson slowly started to get more of a hold on the game as the half progressed. After Echezarreta and co. rebuffed a fair few chances, the Tigers eventually broke through with a penalty in the 39th minute.
“Clemson was better,” Santoro said. “First half, I thought we were pretty good, in the first 25 minutes. Unfortunate not to get to halftime up 1-0, but they were better the second half. We couldn't connect passes, couldn't connect through the midfield, possessions were too quick. When you give that team that many set piece opportunities and that many chances to attack, that's what's gonna happen.”
With such a young roster, the Wolfpack being able to compete with such highly ranked teams is a positive for the future. For the Pack, the key to turning these narrow losses and draws into wins is continued hard work.
“Get on the field again,” Echezarreta said. “Go back to training. Do it again. Don't give up and keep trying. Believe in us. We have a good team, and we can do big things. We're just really young. We're having the same mistake over and over. Correcting it just takes time, patience and we just want to go back to the field again.”
The Wolfpack will have an opportunity to do so with a quick turnaround before its next game as No. 7 Virginia heads to Dail Soccer Field this Sunday, Sept. 26. The game is set to kick off at 1 p.m.