As a Wake Forest student and avid sports fan, there’s no better time to be cheering on the Deacs then now. There has been a whole plethora of surprises and information to keep track of, so it’s easy to miss all that is happening in the sports world.
This article will be the first in a series of installments catching you up on where the different programs playing this fall stand, and what each team has to look forward to.
Let’s start with volleyball and football, shall we?
Losses against Miami (2), Georgia Tech (2) and Clemson (2
The Demon Deacons were coming off a 14-15 record last season and entered this year’s campaign with high hopes. Due to COVID-19, the season was shortened to eight games, meaning that two matchups against Florida State were cancelled. The volleyball season concluded on Oct. 30, where the team fell to Clemson by a score of 3-1.
This year proved to be a tough season for the Deacs. They faced three high caliber teams and put up a fight in virtually every set, but don’t have much to show for it. Georgia Tech finished the year ranked No. 8 in the nation and first in the ACC, Miami finishing at No. 12 in the nation and Clemson finished with a .500 record to their name.
There are plenty of bright spots surrounding this young team as they continue to grow amid a conference filled to the brim with talent. This season, the Deacs were led by seniors Caroline Kuhn — who led the team in kills (56) — and Maddie Holt — who finished No. 10 in the ACC in terms of assists (151). This pair, along with Paige Sebesta (the team leader in digs) will be the only seniors departing in the off-season.
As such, there have been ample opportunities for younger players to grow, which bodes well for the future of the program. The Demon Deacons hope they can use this chemistry to their advantage going forward as they look to right the ship in 2021.
Record: 4-2(3-2 vs ACC)
Wins against Campbell, Virginia, Virginia Tech and Syracuse
Losses against Clemson and NC State
The Deacs entered the COVID-19 shortened season with a tough task of filling the void left from stars Jamie Newman (transferred to Georgia), wide receivers Sage Surratt (opted out), Kendall Hinton (drafted by Broncos), Scotty Washington (drafted by Bengals) and Steven Claude (graduated). Many questioned whether or not the team would be able to overcome such a significant loss of talent, and quarterback Sam Hartman was often at the center of such questions.
The redshirt sophomore had only played in four games last year, and Newman’s performance during the 2019 campaign left the bar high. Many preseason polls had the Deacs towards the bottom of the ACC, with the official ACC preseason poll having Wake Forest at No. 10 in the predicted order of finish.
How things have played out
It’s still early — the Deacs have played six games and have five to go – but those questions that loomed largest seem to have been answered. The Demon Deacons have looked strong on both sides of the ball, especially of late.
The running game has found great success with the combination of Kenneth Walker III and Christian Beal-Smith, who both average over five yards per carry. The team ranks second in the ACC in rushing yards per game, and the aforementioned duo sits only behind the pair of Michael Carter and Javonte Williams from North Carolina. The balanced run game will be key down the stretch if the Deacs want a chance to knock off teams like North Carolina, Miami and Notre Dame later this season.
The Deacs have four receivers ranked within the top-50 in the ACC for yards, and much of the success can be traced to the second-year leap of Hartman. So far, he has boasted a passer rating of 141.0 and currently holds a streak of 156 passes without an interception.
On defense, the team has consistently improved. Despite the havoc caused by COVID-19, the team has adopted a next-man up mentality that has paid dividends, even as younger players have been thrust into the spotlight (see Nick Andersen). The Demon Deacons hope to build on this success in weeks to come and continue forcing turnovers — the squad has the best turnover margin in the country, gaining 12 and losing only one.
What’s to come
The Demon Deacons have a bye week before facing off against North Carolina at Chapel Hill on Nov. 14. The Tar Heels opened the season with wins against Syracuse, Boston College and Virginia Tech, but were stunned by the one-win Seminoles from Florida State (despite being ranked No. 5 in the nation at the time).
The Deacons will have to shut down North Carolina’s electric offense, led by QB Sam Howell, if they want to pull off the win on the road in Chapel Hill this weekend.