Soccer is a weird sport.
A team can dominate in nearly all aspects of the game — possession, shots taken and corner kicks, and still find itself behind in the one category that counts: goals scored.
In the final regular-season match at Spry Stadium this season, No. 2 Wake Forest lost to Notre Dame 1-0. It was the Deacs first regular-season home loss in ACC play since 2013, which was also against Notre Dame.
Wake Forest had a 17-4 advantage on shots taken, 5-1 advantage in shots on target, 13-2 advantage in corner kicks, held 62% of the possession and played about 65% of the match on Notre Dame’s half of the field. Despite the statistical domination, Notre Dame’s one shot on-target was all the Fighting Irish needed to pull out the victory.
“Our movement at times was really good and then the final ball was a little bit off. We were making our passes in the final third a little bit predictable,” said Head Coach Bobby Muuss. “Let’s be fair, we got to learn a lot from this game. Notre Dame is a very well-organized team. They got behind the ball extremely quickly, and we didn’t execute.”
Wake Forest celebrated Senior Night before the match. The senior class has been one of the best and most accomplished in the nation. Over the past four years, Wake Forest won 68 games, which is 10 more (coming into the game against Notre Dame) than any other Division 1 program.
Notre Dame started the game off aggressively, attacking the Wake Forest defense, but the Deacs held strong and pushed back. From there, Wake Forest had two corner kicks in the first 10 minutes but was unable to convert either. The Deacs nearly had a chance at a penalty kick when there was a handball called on Notre Dame but it occurred right outside the box. The free-kick attempt a few feet in front of the box was fired into the wall of Notre Dame defenders and the first and only goal of the match occurred in the 21st minute.
Notre Dame sophomore Patrick Coleman had the ball in the upper right corner of the box. He proceeded to make a few fake-out dribbles to back the defenders up and create space for himself. Coleman then used his left foot to fire a shot into the left netting of the goal to give Notre Dame a 1-0 lead.
Wake Forest’s best chance of the evening came in the 52nd minute. Midfielder Bruno Lapa fired a curving shot to the right side of the net from the top of the box. But Notre Dame’s goalie, Duncan Turnbull, dove to save the shot while it was in the air. Turnbull had five saves in the game.
Wake Forest kept pressing as the second half waned but was unable to score.
“It was just one of those games where the final ball just didn’t quite come off,” said freshman forward Calvin Harris. “Just wasn’t quite connecting, and it cost us at the end.”
The loss dropped Wake Forest to second in the ACC Atlantic division behind Clemson and third overall in the ACC behind Clemson and UVA. Additionally, the Deacs dropped to No. 7 in the national polls.
While Wake Forest was seen as the likely favorite to take the top seed in the ACC tournament coming into the Notre Dame game, the loss changes the outlook for the Deacs. The Demon Deacons have 15 points in ACC play while UVA and Clemson each have 16. With only one game remaining on the ACC schedule for each team, Wake Forest does not control its own destiny but can greatly help their chances with a win. The Deacs have already clinched a first-round bye in the ACC tournament, and this upcoming weekend will determine which of the top four seeds they will receive.
Wake Forest’s final regular-season game will be on the road on Nov. 1, against Louisville at Mark & Cindy Lynn Soccer Stadium.