When the Wake Forest field hockey team took the field against Appalachian State on Friday, Oct. 28, the object of the game for the Deacons wasn’t simply to come away with a win, it was to demonstrate that they had the ability to overcome the adversity that they’ve faced throughout the season, and that will inevitably present itself during the ACC Tournament.
Within this context, the Deacon’s display of dominance in their 9-1 victory over the Mountaineers on Friday was not only expected, but a necessary step towards reaching their ceiling as a team before the ACC Tournament.
“It’ll be a good game for us but only if we play well,” said head coach Jen Averill two days before the game.
For Averill, playing well carries its own significance on a deeper level than simply winning. To her, playing well is about taking risks and letting the game come to you on a subconscious level.
In the ACC Tournament, playing a scripted game won’t work. That risk-taking, fast-paced style of play was demonstrated on the field with nearly every goal that the Deacs scored.
“It’s about making mistakes, but it’s also about how well you can adapt to them,” Averill said. “Sometimes you just have to go for it, and if you lose the ball and have to sprint 50 yards back down the field to win it again, well, you learned not to lose the ball next time.”
Wake Forest was able to adapt extremely well against the Mountaineers, as they held a 5-1 advantage at halftime. A hat trick from sophomore forward Jule Grashoff led the individual scoring for the Deacs, as they recorded 23 shots in their highest-scoring win since 2013, which was also a 9-1 victory over App State.
“It’s encouraging, because even though we have low numbers and we’re mixing up personnel in different spots, being able to pull out a win is really nice.” said senior forward Lindsey Graham.
Coach Averill also preached how important spacing would be during the ACC Tournament and how individual skill alone would not cut it against the perennial powerhouses of the ACC. Wake Forest was able to translate that message onto the field on Friday, as it was the off-ball runs and space created from the movement of Wake Forest forwards that set the Deacons apart from Mountaineers.
“It’s also really encouraging applying all of the things we worked on in practice this week to the game today, in practice this week to the game today, in preparation for Sunday and especially for the ACC Tournament,” Graham said after the game.
Wake Forest appears to be hitting their stride just as they enter the most crucial part of their season.
“I think that’s the most exciting thing, especially with all of the things that have happened to us throughout the season,” said junior midfielder Karlee Spirit. “We are peaking right now at the perfect time.”
“I think it’s encouraging to peak right before the tournament, right before the end of the season.”
The field hockey team took on Liberty on Sunday, Oct. 30, coming out on top with a 3-1 victory to end their regular season. The victory set Wake Forest’s final record at 10-7 on the year, without an ACC win to show for it.
Grashoff and senior forward Sarah Thornhill tallied three goals, with Grashoff putting up two to increase her season total to 13 on the year.
Sophomore goalkeeper Cat O’ Connor recorded two saves on the night, increasing her total to 50 on the year.
Freshman forward Nicole Pluta was named ACC Freshman of the Year on Wednesday, Nov. 2, as well as named to the All-ACC First team as a forward. Pluta was the only Wake Forest player named to the team. Wake Forest will play No. 2 seeded Syracuse in their first game of the ACC tournament on Friday, Nov. 4 at 3:30 p.m. at Kentner Stadium.