Alabama soccer defeats Clemson to advance in NCAA Tournament

Austin Hannon, Staff Reporter

The Alabama women’s soccer team (11-9-1) defeated the Clemson Tigers (12-7-1) 1-0 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday night.

It was Alabama’s first tournament win in program history.

The Crimson Tide came onto the pitch ready to prove themselves. In the fourth minute, forward Riley Tanner crossed the ball to midfielder Allie Berk. Berk tapped it in for the lone goal of the game.

“Berk’s goal was huge,” Alabama head coach Wes Hart said. “Great run from Riley Tanner down the left side. No surprise that she beat her player and got a serve in.”

Alabama defender Reyna Reyes put a shot on goal just a few minutes later, but it was saved by Clemson goalkeeper Hensley Hancuff.

The Crimson Tide controlled the game for the rest of the first half and went into the break still leading by a goal. Alabama frustrated the Tigers’ defense, leading to nine fouls by Clemson in the first 45 minutes.

The second half was a different story, with the favored Clemson team coming out energized and ready to play.

“Our plan in the second half was to continue attacking and look for the second goal,” Hart said. “Unfortunately, Clemson got some momentum early and didn’t let go.”

In the 58th minute, Tigers midfielder Megan Bornkamp fired a shot that hit the crossbar and bounced in front of the net, but Alabama goalkeeper McKinley Crone fell on top of it for the save.

Crone continued to be the star of the match for the remaining 30 minutes. 

“Today was an opportunity to prove ourselves as a team,” Crone said. “I knew it was going to take a big performance, and I was going to need to make some critical saves. I just wanted to play my piece of the puzzle. It was an opportunity to rise to the occasion and a privilege to be on the field.”

Clemson held possession of the ball for almost the entire half, tiring the Alabama defense.

The Tigers outshot Alabama 14-0 in the second half. But again and again, Crone was there to make the save. She finished with four crucial saves. 

Clemson also had eight corners to Alabama’s zero. With nine seconds remaining, Tigers defender Harper White fired off one more shot, but one last time, Crone was there. 

This time, she got up and kicked the ball down the field as time expired. Hart described Crone’s performance as “brilliant,” and the best he’s ever seen her play.

With the Crimson Tide’s bench eruption, the Alabama soccer team had its biggest win in program history.

“So proud of our team and so incredibly happy for them,” Hart said. “We had a great start to the game. We were aggressive and confident from the start, and were rewarded with a great goal. Second half, we hung on for dear life. Clemson threw everything at us. But credit to our players, we made huge plays when we needed them.”

With the win, Alabama advances to the round of 32. The Crimson Tide will face No. 13 BYU.

Questions? Email the Sports desk at sports@cw.ua.edu.