Previewing Wake Forest’s athletic teams

With the fall season around the corner, take a look at the teams taking the field


Essex Thayer, Sports Editor

Class of 2025,

Welcome to Wake Forest! In case you didn’t know already, our Division 1 teams are competitive across the board. In fact, some of our programs are among the most successful in the country and perennial contenders come championship season. Here, I invite you to familiarize yourself with the recent history of some of Wake Forest’s fall and winter sports teams so you›re all caught up come game time. With the fall season right around the corner, there isn’t a moment to spare. Enjoy, and Go Deacs!


Last season’s record: 4-5 (3-4 ACC)

Wake Forest football is the dominating fixture of Demon Deacon athletics. Despite the challenges presented by the pandemic and injuries to some key players, the football team put together a respectable season last fall. The season culminated with the Demon Deacons returning to a bowl game for the fifth straight season, though they fell at the hands of the Wisconsin Badgers. Despite the numerous obstacles faced, Wake Forest was still able to post their highest points per game average in school history last year.

On the offensive side of the ball, the Demon Deacons return virtually their entire starting roster, including redshirt sophomore quarterback Sam Hartman. Last year, the 2020 Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award Watch List member completed 58% of his passes for 2224 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Behind Hartman at running back, redshirt junior Christian Beal-Smith returns as one part of the dynamic duo that wreaked havoc on opposing defenses in 2020 (Beal-Smith’s counterpart, Kenneth Walker III, transferred to Michigan State in the offseason). During last year’s redshirt sophomore season, the back rushed for a team-high 770 yards, but only registered five of Wake Forest’s 22 rushing touchdowns.

At wideout, the Demon Deacons return last season’s breakout star, redshirt junior Jaquarii Roberson. After receiving very few targets in his first two seasons, Roberson found himself in the spotlight in 2020, pulling in 62 catches for 926 yards and eight touchdowns. His performance earned him second-team All American honors.

This year’s defense is highlighted by another storyline from last year — Nick Anderson — the walk-on freshman safety who intercepted three passes in Wake Forest’s win over No. 19 Virginia Tech. Replacing second-round NFL-draft pick Boogie Basham on the front seven will be a tall order, but redshirt sophomore Rondell Bothroyd and freshman Jasheen Davis are tabbed to fill the defensive end spot.

The Demon Deacons open up their 2021 campaign at home on Sept. 3 against Old Dominion. They begin conference play at home against Florida State on Sept. 18. Wake Forest will also travel to face one of last year’s College Football Playoff members, Clemson, on Nov. 20.

Men’s Soccer:

Last season’s record: 7-1-2 in the spring (3-0-2 ACC)

In a season that could best be described as different, with the NCAA Championship being played in the spring as opposed to the fall, Wake Forest once again proved they are one of the best teams in the nation. Despite losing multiple players after the fall season to professional leagues, the Demon Deacons were able to cobble together a roster that included several freshmen, sophomores and even a few early enrollees that took them all the way to the semifinals of the NCAA Tournament, where they lost to North Carolina.

From that inexperienced, yet successful, semifinal team, Wake Forest returns every player from their starting lineup. Redshirt sophomore starting goalkeeper Cole McNally is back between the posts after a stellar spring campaign. The team also returns their entire starting back four, which consists of sophomores Jahlane Forbes, Nico Benalcazar, Garrison Tubbs and Prince Amponsah. Benalcazar was a second-team Top XI selection by Top Drawer Soccer last season.

In the middle of the field, redshirt junior Jake Swallen, juniors Omar Hernandez and Takuma Suzuki and sophomores Hosie Kajima and Christian Escribano are the likely starters. Hernandez scored the second-most goals on the team last year with six. At the top, senior forward Kyle Holcomb, last year’s highest scorer (nine goals), is back.

The Demon Deacons begin the season with two exhibition matches. The second of these games is against Coastal Carolina on Aug. 21, and will be the first at Spry Stadium in which fans are allowed. The first non-exhibition match of the season will also come at home on Aug. 26 against Virginia Commonwealth.

Men’s Basketball:

Last season’s record: 6-16 (3-15 ACC)

Last season was a transitional year for the Demon Deacons under first-year Head Coach Steve Forbes, who came to Winston-Salem after years of success at East Tennessee State University. The year began on a promising note, with Wake Forest taking down Delaware State by 60 points in their first game of the season. Two days later, they beat Longwood University by ten. That game, due to a COVID-19 outbreak within the team, would be the final game the team would play for over a month.

After that long of a break, the team struggled to return to the winning ways that Forbes’ teams are known for. After winning by eight against Catawba, a Division 2 team, the Deacs faltered throughout the majority of the remainder of their season. The team’s season ended in heartbreaking fashion in the first round of the ACC Tournament, losing to Notre Dame on a buzzer-beater.

In his first full summer at the helm, Forbes has completely retooled the team. Of the 13 scholarship players on the team, only four return from the previous season — freshman guard Carter Whitt, senior guard Daivien Williamson, senior forward Isaiah Mucius and redshirt sophomore forward Tariq Ingraham.

Whitt, who played in the spring as an early enrollee, is a member of a five-person freshman class that includes guards Lucas Taylor, Robert McCray and the No. 1 recruit in England, Cameron Hildreth. At the forward position, English recruit Matthew Marsh recently committed to the Demon Deacons, and should be ready to play in the upcoming season.

Lastly, Wake Forest made massive moves in the transfer window securing the services of grad transfers Alondes Williams from Oklahoma, Dallas Walton from Colorado and Khadim Sy from Ole Miss. Jake Laravia from Indiana State, has two years left of eligibility. The last of the transfers, Damari Montsanto, the Freshman So-Con Player of the Year from East Tennessee, underwent season-ending surgery nearly a month ago. Wake Forest has yet to release their 2021 schedule.

Women’s Basketball:

Last season’s record: 12-13 (8-10 ACC)

The Wake Forest Women’s Basketball team was one of the brightest stories of the year, returning to the NCAA Tournament for their first time since 1988 when their head coach, Jen Hoover, was a player on the team.

The two biggest role players from last year›s team (and two of the biggest names in team history) — Ivana Raca and Gina Conti — are both no longer with the team. Conti, who was expected to move to the pros, surprisingly transferred to UCLA in the offseason; Raca was drafted with the No. 28 pick in the WNBA Draft by the Los Angeles Sparks.

Despite the losses, the Demon Deacons do return three of their five starters — freshman guard Jewel Spear and sophomore forwards Alexandria Scruggs and Olivia Summiel. Spear broke out for Wake Forest last winter. Her campaign included a 29-point performance in the ACC Tournament against North Carolina. She spent this summer playing with the USA U-19 Team.

With Conti and Raca no longer donning black and gold, there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding this team in the upcoming season. While the road will be tough, the precedent has been set and the team will be eying a return to the NCAA Tournament. As with the men’s program, the women’s schedule has yet to be released.