Wake Forest Men’s Soccer suffers first loss

The Deacs lost a heartbreaker to Clemson, then bested UNC

JB Blood, Staff Writer

It was a tale of two endings. Last Tuesday against Clemson, the Wake Forest Men’s Soccer team lost a heartbreaker by a score of 2-1 after a late Clemson goal. There would be no heartbreak, though, in Wake Forest’s game Sunday against the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. After a hard-fought defensive battle went into overtime, the Deacs broke through in the seventh minute of the extra period to secure a 1-0 victory. 

The Wake Forest vs. Clemson matchup was originally supposed to occur on Sept. 18, but had to be rescheduled by Clemson due to positive COVID-19 tests within the soccer program. When the Deacs arrived at Clemson’s Riggs Field, they were sporting a five-game winning streak against the Tigers, including a thrilling 3-2 overtime victory last year. Clemson had more of a home-field advantage than most teams during the pandemic, as they were allowed 1,000 people in the stadium while full capacity is 6,500. 

The first half included a superb performance from Wake Forest goalie, junior Andrew Pannenberg. Clemson had four shots on target in the first half, and all four were saved by Pannenberg. Clemson was the more aggressive team in the first half, putting up nine shots compared to three from Wake Forest. Additionally, Clemson held a four to two advantage on corner kicks. Clemson also played with a high level of physicality in the half and committed nine fouls while Wake Forest only committed four. Both teams’ defenses played well and kept the score at 0-0 heading into halftime. 

Clemson got on the board early in the second half, scoring just under six minutes into play. Grayson Barber made a run down the right side of the field and crossed the ball into the box where Kimarni Smith one touched it into the net from just a few feet in front of the goal. It was Smith’s 20th career goal and gave Clemson a 1-0 lead. 

Wake Forest quickly responded though, with a brilliant strike from senior Machop Chol to even the score at 1-1. Chol received a pass from freshman defender Garrison Tubbs about halfway between midfield and the Clemson goal. From there, Chol controlled the ball and dribbled it around a defender and as another Clemson defender was coming to cover him, Chol fired off a hard shot from distance that curved around the defender in front of him and then into the back of the net. Chol’s extraordinary strike tied the match up at one apiece. 

A Clemson goal in the 80th minute by Luis Felipe Fernandez-Salvador assisted by Kimarni Smith gave them a 2-1 lead and the eventual victory. It was Wake Forest’s first loss of the season. Overall, it was an evenly matched game with Wake Forest controlling 52% of the possession; possession was also evenly split between the Wake Forest and Clemson halves of the field. Clemson also ended with a 13 to 11 advantage on shots and a six to five advantage on shots on goal. 

Under Coach Bobby Muuss, Wake Forest doesn’t lose often, but when they do, they bounce back immediately. Entering into Sunday night’s matchup against UNC, Wake Forest had gone 13-1-1 in games following a loss under Coach Muuss. That excellent record would continue with Wake Forest’s 1-0 overtime victory Sunday night at Spry Stadium. 

UNC entered the game as the third-ranked team in the country after they defeated Clemson 1-0 on Oct. 9. A team that prides itself on its defensive prowess, UNC did not give up a goal in their first two games of the season. 

Wake Forest’s starting defense of junior Holland Rula, freshman Cristian Escribino, sophomore Nico Benalcazar and freshman Garrison Tubbs had an excellent match and only allowed sixth shots all game, only one of which was on target. Pannenberg made the save on the shot on target. Tubbs and Benalcazar played all 97 minutes of the match. 

Senior Justin McMaster made his season debut for the Deacs in the 33rd minute of the match after being previously sidelined all season with an injury. McMaster had a strong debut playing 29 minutes in total and recording a shot on goal in the 39th minute. 

The game was a defensive battle, with neither side finding many scoring opportunities throughout the match. UNC had a series of back to back corner kicks early in the second half, but those were both unsuccessful. Meanwhile, Wake Forest had a free kick in the 71st minute that was also unsuccessful. 

The best chance for UNC came in the waning seconds of the second half. With just 52 seconds remaining, UNC had a hard shot from the top of the 18-yard box. However, Pannenberg was well-positioned and deflected the ball away from the net to preserve the 0-0 score.

At the end of 90 minutes, the game moved to a first-goal-wins overtime period. Wake Forest scored quickly in the 97th minute with a goal from junior Kyle Holcomb that might be their best of the season. 

Sophomore midfielder Omar Hernandez received a pass from Rula near the left sideline facing the UNC goal. From there, Hernandez took a few dribbles toward the corner of the 18-yard box and fired off a cross in the air from 10 yards outside the box. The brilliant ball sliced across the box and made its way to the far corner of the six-yard box. Holcomb timed his run perfectly and jumped into the air to head the ball past the airborne goalie trying to punch it away. The ball took one bounce and then crossed the goal line to give Wake Forest a 1-0 victory. 

Wake Forest’s next matchup is on Friday, Oct. 23, on the road against Duke. The Deacs will look to continue their terrific start to the season with yet another big-time win against an in-conference opponent.