Women’s soccer stuns No. 17 Virginia Tech

The Demon Deacons prevailed on a game-winning goal from senior Shayla Smart


Charles Horn, Staff Writer

A stellar strike by senior Shayla Smart proved decisive as Wake Forest women’s soccer beat  No. 17 Virginia Tech 4-3 in a vital victory that the Demon Deacons hope will prove their ability and tenacity to the rest of the NCAA.

Before the match, the players and coaches of the women’s soccer team posed in t-shirts emblazoned with “#NoMoreSilence” in solidarity with the players of the National Women’s Soccer League who came forward earlier this week with allegations of sexual misconduct by Paul Riley, the former head coach of the North Carolina Courage. The entire Wake Forest coaching staff, including Head Coach Tony da Luz, wore the shirts throughout the match.

For the second time in as many games, the Demon Deacons struck quickly. Freshman Nikayla Small played a stellar through ball to the wide-open senior striker, Shayla Smart, who lifted the ball over the onrushing keeper to give the Deacons the lead in the second minute. The start was almost identical to that of the team’s last contest against Miami.

Small has excelled in her first year at Spry Stadium, recording four assists and ranking as the No. 30 freshman in the country in the latest TopDrawerSoccer rankings. Three other Deacs joined Small in these rankings, with defender Kristin Johnson, midfielder Malaika Meena and defender Zara Chavoshi all being ranked in the top-100.

Just minutes later, senior forward Hulda Arnarsdottir was brought down in the box, setting up a penalty kick from senior Sofia Rossi that doubled the Deacons’ lead. Arnarsdottir has enjoyed a stellar run of late, scoring in three consecutive games and playing the entire match against Virginia Tech.

The Hokies clawed one back soon after, and for much of the remaining 20-plus minutes of the first half, the 2-1 scoreline would hold. Later, with just three seconds left on the clock, Jenna Mehta was fouled, setting up Rossi for her second penalty and second goal of the match.

Just seconds into the second half, Virginia Tech scored again to cut the Deacons’ lead back to one, setting up a hectic and dynamic second half. The Wake Forest defense was put to the test in ways not experienced throughout their season thus far.

The Deacs have thrived on the back of their stellar defense, not conceding until their ninth match against No. 7 Virginia. Until Virginia Tech, Wake Forest had not conceded more than once in regulation all season. They lead the nation in goals allowed on average and are yet to concede once in non-conference play.

Right at the half-hour mark, a goalline scramble resulted in a supposed goal by Virginia Tech forward Tori Powell, although camera angles proved it inconclusive as to whether the ball actually crossed the goal line.

Soon thereafter, Smart — who entered the game tied for most points on the team — struck again to cap off an excellent performance.

Driving into the box and cutting onto her left foot, Smart rifled the winner into the bottom right corner, beating the Hokie keeper. Smart’s run and strike were set up with a pinpoint floated pass by Mehta, the graduate student transfer from Georgetown, who has further bolstered the Demon Deacon attack.

At Georgetown, Mehta received the 2020 Big East Offensive Player of the Year award following a stellar season where the forward scored five times and led the team in assists. Mehta’s fusion of goalscoring instinct and creative prowess has enabled a new level of offensive efficiency for the Deacs, turning the defensively excellent Demon Deacons into a potent counter-attacking force, too.

For the Wake Forest women’s soccer team, the win against the No. 17 Hokies gives legitimacy to a stellar season that, so far, has not been enough to place in the national rankings. Additionally, with the NCAA tournament looming, the victory provides a ranked-win necessary to further pad the team’s resumé.

After dominating in non-conference play, the Deacs’ schedule rapidly grew in intensity as ACC play commenced. A narrow home loss to then-No. 7 (now No. 2) ranked Virginia broke the Deacs’ clean sheet run, but the Deacs bounced back with two regulation wins before splitting back-to-back overtime matches against Louisville and Miami.

Next up is No. 4 Duke this Friday at Spry, as the team looks to capitalize off recent momentum and bolster their tournament hopes.