What was looking like a rare dismal season for the Coastal Carolina men’s soccer team into early October has turned into one of the best seasons in the program’s storied history.
The Chanticleers, who began the season 2-4, defeated Clemson 3-1 in the second round of the NCAA tournament on Sunday night at Historic Riggs Field in Clemson to reach the third round for the third time in the past six years and first time since 2013.
The Tigers (12-6-1) were the No. 8 national seed, and the Chants will now play Stanford (16-2-1), the nation’s No. 9 seed in the 48-team tournament. The Cardinal defeated Pacific in penalty kicks Sunday after the teams were scoreless through regulation and two overtimes. The third-round game is set for 8 p.m. (Eastern) Sunday in Palo Alto, Calif.
Coastal is riding an 11-game unbeaten streak, going 10-0-1 since the team was 4-6 through Oct. 7, and Stanford is on the exact same 10-0-1 run in its past 11 games.
The Chants won despite playing a man down for the game’s final 28 minutes, as forward Yazeed Matthews picked up a red card in the 62nd minute.
Coastal (14-6-1) will have an opportunity to defeat the two teams that played for the 2015 national championship, which Stanford won over Clemson, to reach soccer’s quarterfinals for the first time in program history. All quarterfinal games will be played Saturday and Sunday.
Coastal has reached at least the second round of the NCAA Tournament in seven consecutive seasons.
The Chants had been knocked from the NCAA Tournament by an ACC opponent in six of the past seven years, including by Clemson in the second round in 2014.
The Chanticleers had been 2-9-2 all time against the Upstate soccer power, though the last two matches in 2015 and 2016 ended in ties. The Tigers defeated Coastal 3-1 in a preseason exhibition this year.
Senior midfielder Martin Melchor led the offense Sunday with two goals and an assist, getting three of his four shots on goal. He has three goals and two assists in Coastal’s past three games – a 2-0 win over Georgia State in the Sun Belt Conference championship game and 1-0 win over Mercer in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Sun Belt Player of the Year Frantzdy Pierrot had a goal and assist as well as two shots on goal, giving the senior forward two goals and two assists in the past three games. Saif AlHameli and Henrik Mueller also notched assists in the game.
The Chants struck early against the shell-shocked Tigers, with Melchor scoring 4 minutes into the game and Pierrot scoring at 5 minutes. Clemson’s Jason Wright scored at 20 minutes to cut the deficit to a goal, but Melchor added his second at 50 minutes and the Chants weathered the storm while being undermanned.
CCU senior keeper Braulio Linares-Ortiz made nine saves in the game, as Coastal was outshot 17-12 and was outshot in shots on goal 10-6. Clemson also had 11 corner kicks to just two for the Chants.