CARY, N.C. — After a penalty kick save by goalkeeper George Marks, Justin Malou placed a penalty perfectly into the right-hand side of the net, sending the Tigers to their fifth National Championship Game in program history. No. 8 Clemson (15-5-2) and No. 4 Notre Dame (14-5-5) were tied 1-1 after 110 hard fought minutes, and Clemson came out on top of the penalty shootout for the second-straight game by a score of 5-3.
After the first three penalty takers for both teams made their attempts, Marks again played hero, propelling himself to his right to stop a well-taken penalty. Malou walked calmly and confidently to the spot and slotted his game-winning kick beautifully into the side-netting.
Notre Dame threatened early when a long-distance shot struck the crossbar, but ultimately stayed out of the net. It was the Tigers who struck first when Pipe Fernandez took a touch to his right and hit a brilliant shot that banged off the underside of the crossbar and over the goal line to give Clemson the first lead of the game.
The lead however was short-lived as a dangerous Notre Dame attack resulted in a penalty kick, which was calmly slotted into the right-hand side of the net, tying the game at one apiece in the 21st minute. Both defenses held steady for the remainder of the half. The Irish outshot the Tigers 4-3 and earned two corners to Clemson’s zero.
Clemson came out of halftime committed to possession, but were unable to create any clear-cut chances in the first ten minutes of the half. Notre Dame created a turnover in dangerous territory with just over 20 minutes remaining, but the resulting shot rolled just wide of the frame.
The Tigers responded with two chances of their own when a Brandon Parrish cross found Mohamed Seye’s head on the back post, but the Spanish native was unable to beat the keeper. Moments later, Callum Johnson found space at the top of the box, but his shot was also saved.
With just two minutes left in regulation, a very dangerous Irish cross found a head, but bounced over and wide of George Marks’s net, and the two teams headed to overtime. The Clemson defense held strong in two overtime periods, sending the match to a shootout.
The Tigers and Fighting Irish went back and forth for the first three shots with successful attempts from John Martin, Luis Felipe Fernandez-Salvador and Oskar Ägren. Hamady Diop made the first attempt of the fourth frame before, once again, the senior captain Marks shined on the biggest stage in college soccer as he dove to his right side and saved the Fighting Irish’s fourth penalty, before Malou’s goal pushed Clemson over the edge and into the National Championship match.
Up next, Clemson will play No. 2 Washington at 2 p.m. Sunday.