Some teams start off strong and then falter as the game goes on. Other teams simply never find their groove at all. Then there are teams that continuously get better throughout the game. They wear down their opponents and gain momentum with each passing minute. The No. 1 Demon Deacons men’s soccer team falls into that last category. Scoring all of their goals in the second half this weekend in a 2-1 win over No. 15 UCF and a 1-0 win over Creighton, Wake Forest has proven itself as a team that plays best when it matters most.
Part of the reason for the Deacs’ second half success is its depth.
“We have depth and that obviously is going to help … We got different players,”said Head Coach Bobby Muuss after the Creighton game. “Kyle Holcomb is a totally different player than Machop [Chol]. We compliment each other pretty well in that front four.”
Wake Forest’s depth was on display over the weekend as 18 different players saw time in the game against Creighton.
Against UCF, Wake Forest didn’t get a shot off in the first half but still managed to pull out the 2-1 victory. Star midfielder Bruno Lapa opened the scoring for The Deacs in the 58th minute by creating a turnover and then beating the goalie to give them a 1-0 lead. Wake Forest’s second goal of the night was scored in the 67th minute by Kyle Holcomb off of a long pass from Michael DeShields. Holcomb beat the goalie in a one-on-one situation to put Wake Forest up 2-0. UCF scored a header with under a minute left to make the final score 2-1. UCF ended the match with an 8-5 advantage in shots but Wake Forest held a 5-3 advantage in the second half. Muuss was suspended for the match due to a red card from last season’s loss against Akron in the NCAA tournament, so Steve Armas and Dane Brenner filled in as co-head coaches.
The Deacs’ second game of the weekend was against a tough Creighton team that drew No. 6 UNC 2-2 on Friday night in Chapel Hill. After another scoreless first half, the Deacs broke through in the second to win 1-0. The close final score didn’t reflect how dominant the Deacs were during the game. Wake Forest held 64% of the possession and had 13 shots compared to Creighton’s six. Additionally, the Deacs had four shots on target while Creighton failed to get a single one. Wake Forest was on the offensive for most of the night. 57% of the game took place in Creighton’s half of the field, including 25% in their penalty box. Meanwhile, only 15% of the game occurred near the Demon Deacons’ goal.
Creighton played a highly aggressive and chippy game, which earned them 17 fouls and four yellow cards. Despite this barrage, the Deacs were able to keep its cool and played well throughout the match.
In the first half Wake Forest had six shots and five corners but could never quite find the back of the net. The best opportunity for either team came in the 30th minute. Creighton’s Ziyad Fares was dribbling near the back line to the right side of the Demon Deacons’ goal and passed a short ball to Luke Haakenson who tapped in what looked like a goal. But, the ball went out of bounds when Fares was dribbling so the goal did not count.
During the second half, Wake Forest continued to put the pressure on Creighton and finally broke through in the 76th minute with a goal by freshman forward Calvin Harris. Midfielder Bruno Lapa forced a turnover to give the Deacs possession and junior Machop Chol ended up with the ball inside the 18-yard box. Chol then gave a short cross on the ground to Harris who was a few feet in front of the goal. Harris then brilliantly kicked the ball past the goalie’s hand on the first touch to give Wake Forest the lead and eventually the victory.
When asked about the goal, Calvin Harris said, “I just saw Machop get it … and just made sure that I got in the box and beat the defender. It felt really good scoring in front of my family and getting the winning goal for the team tonight.”
Other strong performances came from junior Justin McMaster who had two shots on goal and and from goalie Andrew Pannenberg who had a clean sheet.
Muuss highlighted his team’s drive after the game.
“I thought it was a pretty good collective performance for 90 minutes,” Muuss said. “I thought our energy was good. What makes us have energy is the way we move the ball and the tempo of our play. We did a good job of closing some outlets and were able to keep the ball in their half.”
Wake Forest now stands at 2-0-0 and plays its next game on Sept. 6 at Spry Stadium against Dartmouth.