National Girls and Women in Sports Day Highlight: Clemson Women’s Soccer

February 7, 2024

By: Mackenzie Duff

        As we celebrate National Girls and Women in Sports Day, it’s only right to shout out a team that did some memorable things to finish out 2023. This past season, the Clemson Women’s Soccer Team had a historic year, finishing 18-4-4 overall and earning themselves an appearance in the College Cup for the first time in program history. The team consisted of 25 incredible women who showed up in June for optional training in hopes of building something special. The team committed to training almost their entire summer leading up to pre-season, and their hard work and preparation did not go to waste. As a member of that team, I can confirm that the leadership, culture, and grit of the team was unlike anything I’ve ever seen in my 15 years of playing soccer. It would be impossible to talk about the team or its success without mentioning four names who were all selected in the 2024 National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) draft in January. I will be sharing with you their individual achievements and stats, but more importantly, I’m going to highlight the intangibles that these ladies brought to the team.

        At the top of the list is #15 Hal Hershfelt. She was the No. 5 overall pick in the draft, selected by the Washington Spirit. In her career at Clemson, Hershfelt earned herself a spot on the ACC All-Freshman Team in 2019, Third Team All-ACC Team in 2020, Second Team All-ACC in 2021 and 2022, and First Team All-ACC in 2023. Additionally, she was the only Tiger selected to the NCAA’s 2023 All-Tournament Team. She was 1 of 2 captains for the Tigers who led by example on and off the field. On the field, Hershfelt was the hardest worker, backbone of the midfield, and “voice” for the team. Before games, she would give an inspirational speech, and if the Tiger’s ever conceded a goal during the run of play, she was the one they turned towards to talk them out of a hole. Off the field, she was a stellar student and an even better teammate. What set her apart from the rest of the group was her love and belief in the team. Hershfelt returned to Clemson for her fifth year because she saw something special in the team, and she made sure that they reached their full potential. Hal was an extraordinary captain for the Tigers and her impact on the program as a young woman and player is something that will never be forgotten.

        The second Tiger to be selected in the draft was Makenna Morris at No. 13. In the 2023 season, Morris led the Tigers in points with 10 goals and 6 assists, totaling for 26 points. She has a long list of accolades, including ACC All-Freshman Team and Second Team All-ACC in 2020/2021, Third Team All-ACC in 2021, First Team All-ACC in 2023, Best XI Second Team in 2023, and United Soccer Coaches All-American Second Team in 2023. As the Tiger’s most versatile player, Morris was a fierce competitor, crafty playmaker, and overall offensive and defensive weapon. As impactful as she was on the pitch, she was even more incredible off the field. From her witty personality to her undeniable loyalty, Makenna was loved and respected by everyone. Arguably, the greatest thing she brought to the team was her humor and one-liners. If there was one thing you could count on during practice, it was either A. Makenna was going to meg you (and by you, I mean me) or 2. she was going to crack a joke. Makenna was a once in a lifetime player, and I’m grateful to have gotten to represent the same jersey as her.

        The 32Nd pick overall and first goalkeeper to be selected in the draft was our very own Halle Mackiewicz. Mackiewicz had an unbelievable senior season with the Tigers, finishing with 13 clean sheets which broke the single season record for shutouts. In her last season, she earned herself the title of 2023 ACC Goalkeeper of the Year and was named a Second Team All-American. She recorded 64 saves in her senior season alone, and saved the team many, many times. Her cat-like reflexes and wicked athleticism left so many spectators speechless after watching her play. Halle was impossible not to love and brought joy to everyone around her. She had such an easy-going, calm temperament that drew people to her, and we used to joke that if you didn’t love Halle, there was something wrong with you. Although shy at first, once you got to know Halle, there was never a time you weren’t laughing or smiling with her. She was a kind, gentle soul off the field and a fearless, brick-wall on the field, and it was honor playing with her. Her legacy at Clemson is one that will never be forgotten, and I’m positive that she will build a similar legacy with the Kansas City Current.

        Last but certainly not least, Caroline Conti was selected by Bay Football Club in the third round of the draft. As a Tiger, Conti earned Third Team All-ACC in 2022 and 2023 and played in 100 total matches in a Tiger uniform. She scored 27 goals and recorded 20 assists in her career, leaving an impressive mark on the stat book. More impressive than her stats, however, was her leadership as our captain. Conti was the team’s biggest advocate, motivator, and everyone’s big sister. When I think of what it means to uphold the values and culture of a Clemson Tiger, she is the first person that comes to mind. Apart from being a special leader, Caroline had a heart of gold and was full of passion. There was rarely a day that she wasn’t smiling unless she happened to lose against me in our daily ping pong matches. She was the perfect balance of a fierce leader and supportive friend, and she set an incredibly high standard of what it means to wear that captain band. I can confidently say that the team and I looked up to Caroline in more ways than one, and we’re excited to see all her future success.


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