2023 Women's Top 30: How Clemson Fared vs. Projections
Before USA Lacrosse Magazine looks ahead, we take one last look at 2023.
Before USA Lacrosse Magazine looks ahead to what’s to come in 2024, our team of staff and contributors decided it was worth taking one last look at 2023.
After all, you have to look at the most recent results before making projections for what’s to come. To do that, we’re taking a journey through the top 30 teams in men’s and women’s lacrosse — what went right, what went wrong and what we should all think of that team’s season.
Was it a success? A failure? A mixture of both? You’ll find out our thoughts over the next month or so.
CLEMSON WOMEN’S LACROSSE
Nike/USA Lacrosse Preseason/Final Top 20 Ranking: Unranked/Unranked
2023 record: 12-6 (4-6 ACC)
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Quite a bit, actually — at least if you entered the 2023 season with little to no expectations of the fledgling program. The Tigers won their first four games and scored 21.25 goals per game in that span, and though the offense cooled as the competition improved, Clemson put itself firmly on the national radar with an 11-10 win over Duke at home on March 11. For the win, Clemson earned its first-ever national ranking at No. 14 in the Nike/USA Lacrosse Top 20.
Overall, Clemson also did the little things very well. The Tigers were a top 10 team in clearing percentage and top 20 in both draw controls per game and draw control percentage. They were eighth in scoring defense (8.72 goals per game), although that did include some weaker competition due to a first-year schedule. They were also the No. 1 shooting team in the country at 50.8 percent.
WHAT WENT WRONG
It’s difficult, and perhaps unfair, to say anything went truly “wrong” for Clemson. Ultimately, the team’s shortcomings likely came down to youth. It’s hard for a first-year team to compete against the nation’s top programs, let alone in the gauntlet ACC. And while there was a stable of graduate transfers to help Allison Kwolek’s team stand its ground, having so many underclassmen play key roles is tough to overcome when looking for sustained success. Of the 28 players on the roster, eight were freshman and two were sophomores.
Without question, March 11’s one-goal win over Duke was sensational for the program. The Tigers trailed 7-5 at halftime but limited the Blue Devil offense in the second half, with freshman Sofia Chepenik scoring the game’s final two goals to seal Clemson’s marquee win.
Finishing six games better than .500 with a notable ACC victory in year one? Yeah, not bad for the Tigers. What season two brings forth is unknown. Chepenik (33 goals, 20 assists) transferred to South Florida, meaning Clemson has at least one key long-term figure to replace. Eleven graduate transfers from last year’s roster are likely gone, too.