Family weekend here on campus brought with it two packed gyms full of fans anticipating two tough matches versus ACC opponents. Wake Forest 6-10 (1-3) delivered, playing nine grueling sets against Syracuse 7-4 (4-0) on Friday and Boston College 12-4 (2-2) on Sunday following five straight games on the road.
Wake Forest found themselves lined up against Syracuse in their ACC home opener Friday night. The Orange came into the matchup riding a three-game win streak after dropping only three sets combined to Iowa State, Georgia Tech and Clemson.
Syracuse took the first set 25-19, thanks to a 9-4 run in the middle of the set after trading points with the Deacons until 9-9. Wake Forest managed to grab the second set off the Orange, as sophomore defensive specialist Alysia Nielson hammered home a service ace to grab a 25-21 victory.
Syracuse hit a match-high 39.3 percent in the third set as the Orange worked their way to a 25-17 decision to take a 2-1 match lead. A 10-3 run secured the third set after breaking a 15-14 stalemate early on. Syracuse finally closed out the match in the fourth set 25-21 on the strength of 18 kills against just four errors.
For the match, Syracuse hit 30.8 percent while the Deacons mark stood at 17.3 percent. Three Deacons recorded double-digit kills, led by junior outside hitter Caroline Rassenfoss with 14. Sophomore outside hitter Myca Mitchell added 12 while junior middle blocker Caitlyn Della added 11. Senior libero Hailey Brooke McFadden led the Deacons with 10 digs, while Della led the team with four blocks.
Syracuse, which leads the ACC in blocks, posted 18 stops at the net and was led by senior middle blocker Santita Ebangwese, who finished with a team-high of nine blocks. Freshman outside hitter Polina Shemanova led the Orange with 21 kills. Syracuse managed to extend its winning streak to five games with its victory at Reynolds Gym.
Wake Forest then squared off Sunday afternoon against Boston College, who had previously lost three straight sets to Duke following a brief two-match win streak against Clemson and Georgia Tech.
Wake Forest followed Duke’s lead by beating the Eagles in a demanding five-set slugfest 25-21, 20-25, 25-19, 17-25, 21-19. A 4-0 run at 21-21 all secured the first set for the Deacons before the Eagles rallied with their own run of 8-5 to close the second set with a 25-20 victory. The two teams then traded sets again, with the Deacons winning the third set 25-19 before succumbing to a 25-17 Eagles win in the fourth set.
Thus the stage was set for a dramatic fifth set. The Deacons, on the verge of starting their ACC season 0-4, fell behind early, yielding a 10-5 lead to the Eagles. Wake Forest battled back to tie the score at 12-12. The two teams traded points until the Eagles eked out a 19-18 lead before the Deacons fought for a 3-0 rally, securing the deciding set at 21-19 in front of a roaring crowd.
Wake Forest’s fans came out in full force to witness the stirring victory. Of the frenzied atmosphere in the building, head coach Bill Ferguson said, “Reynolds Gym was rocking today. This was really cool. I have heard all of the stories and this is why you come to Wake Forest: to get in this gym and have it rocking was really huge.”
The Deacons finished the match with a 23.6 hitting percentage, while the Orange were slightly behind with a 23.4 percent mark. Rassenfoss led the team with 18 kills while Della finished not too far behind with 17. McFadden lead the Deacons with 10 digs, while middle blocker Della led the team with seven blocks.
Mitchell had an uncharacteristically quiet game for the Deacons, not posting a kill. Speaking on the team’s ability to step up, Ferguson said, “Boston College committed its whole game plan to scouting Myca (Mitchell) and they did a good job and Myca kept battling. We ended up putting Paige (Sebesta) in and Paige got some points for us and opened things up. Our defensive and serving specialists all came through and we are starting to get Katie Moore back in the mix. We got closer to being 19-strong again. It was really nice to get this win.”
Coming off this huge victory, the Deacons look to continue their streak on the road this weekend against ACC opponent Notre Dame 9-5 (3-1) on Friday at 7:00 p.m. before travelling to Kentucky to play Louisville 11-4 (4-0) on Sunday at 1:00. p.m.