Photo courtesy of Wake Forest Athletic Communications
Photo courtesy of Wake Forest Athletic Communications

Irish get lucky, defeat Deacs 1-0

Just three days after taking down No. 9 Louisville 2-1 in the ACC tournament on Sunday, Nov. 8, Wake Forest was downed 1-0 by No. 8 Notre Dame at Spry Stadium on Wednesday. Despite the loss and exit from the ACC Tournament, head coach Bobby Muuss stressed the need to take positives from every match.

“The last time we lost, we went unbeaten 12 straight games. We don’t need 12 more to win a national championship,” said Muuss.

Wake Forest had a bye in the first round of the ACC tournament after finishing first in the ACC regular season, while Louisville beat Duke 2-1 in the first round. The Demon Deacons would, as the regular season showed us, come out firing right from whistle.

In the 11th minute, Jack Harrison received the ball from Brad Dunwell, cut across three Cardinal defenders, fired the ball back across goal, and into the back of the net. The Cardinals were not phased. In fact, they tightened up their game and recollected themselves, as they became defensively compact again. Wake Forest struggled to break through for the rest of the half and the scoreline was 1-0 in favor of the Demon Deacons.

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The second half was just as frustrating for Wake Forest, as Louisville continued their defensive coordination and began to threaten on offense. In the 72nd minute, a free kick taken byLousiville’s Danny Reynolds was deflected by Jack Gayton to the feet of Joey Kunkel as he fired the ball home to tie the game at 1-1. The goal seemed to spur Wake Forest back into motion, as the Demon Deacons dominated the remaining 18 minutes but were unable to convert any of their chances.

The game entered extra time with the two teams both fighting for their place to continue on in the ACC. Golden goals in extra time meant one goal would lead one team through while immediately eliminating the other. Wake Forest came out the hungrier of the two and the Demon Deacons dominated the opening minutes of the overtime period.

in the 95th minute, a beautiful, penetrating through ball from Jack Harrison to impact-sub Ricky Greensfelder allowed Greensfelder to play a ball to an open Jon Bakero. Bakero’s shot was saved by the sprawled Louisville goalkeeper, Theo Jamilloux. Jacori Hayes picked up the loose ball and fired it back into Jamilloux, but it deflected into goal. An erruptuous roar came from the crowd and celebrations on Walt Chyzowych Alumni Hill began.

On Nov. 11, Wake Forest had the opportunity to play for a chance to reach the final of the ACC Championship, a feat that hasn’t been accomplished since 2007. Prior to the game, the air of urgency surrounding Spry Stadium was palpable. Wake Forest last played Notre Dame on Oct. 23, a game that ended 2-1 Deacons. Coincidentally, that game was also the last time Wake Forest trailed an opponent, until tonight.

Wake Forest started the game trading chances with the Fighting Irish, with neither team establishing a true rhythm early on.

“We’re a rhythm-type team,” said Muuss. “We need the ball to be successful, and I think we had some costly turnovers.”

It became clear that the Wake Forest offense would run through Jack Harrison within the first ten minutes, as he threatened the Notre Dame defense with his blistering pace down the right flank. Wake Forest established an inside-out game early on, with Harrison and Bakero combining for a couple of chances in the first five minutes.

Though neither team held down the midfield in the first half, Notre Dame did display their potent offense through a series of through balls to Jon Gallagher and co., which caused Wake Forest to play out of the back for much of the first 15 minutes of play.

“We like to play the ball back and forth between our centerbacks, and we were a little too predictable tonight,” said Deacon goalkeeper Alec Ferrell. “They were reading that and pressuring our backs pretty quickly.”

The lone bright spot for the Wake Forest offense was the fast feet of Jack Harrison, who, despite being double-teamed immediately upon receiving the ball, managed to nearly split two defenders just outside the right top-corner of the box in the 35th minute.

Harrison drew the foul and played a peach of a ball from the set-piece, but it was deflected off of the crossbar and out of danger for the Fighting Irish. A second chance came in the 31st minute for the Deacs, when a Notre Dame set piece deflected down the left flank for Jon Bakero to run onto. Bakero played a brilliant ball across the middle of the field to a streaking Jacori Hayes, but Hayes’s shot was deflected off the crossbar.

Notre Dame held much of the possession in the first half, but Wake Forest was able to wreak havoc every time Jack Harrison touched the ball. A blur on offense, Harrison’s creativity off the ball and his intelligent play allowed Bakero, Hayes and Hayden Partain to find themselves with space to work.

The first half ended with no score, with With Wake Forest and Notre Dame trading near-miss after near-miss. In the second half, Wake Forest’s offense once again ran through Harrison, who wasn’t able to break through the Notre Dame defense. Notre Dame, however, scored on a loose ball in the box in the 59th minute.

With the score at 1-0 and 30 minutes left to play, Wake Forest didn’t play with the urgency necessary to tie the game. In the last 10 minutes, the Deacons mustered multiple free kicks in favorable positions, but all missed wide.

“To win these games, everybody needs to have a good game,” said Muuss. “We can’t have nine guys have good games and two guys not. At this level, everybody needs to play at their best, and I don’t think we played at our best tonight.”

Wake Forest will now look to the NCAA Tournament, which will be seeded on Monday, Nov. 16. They will hope to go into the Tournament as a No. 1 seed after their stellar regular season play.

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