Women’s soccer triumphs over NC State, Pitt

Women’s soccer gears up for ACC Tournament, which begins Oct. 31


Wake Forest had two key ACC wins last week. A goal from Giovanna DeMarco against NC State on Oct. 21 lifted the team to a 1-0 win.

Charles Horn, Staff Writer

Fifty years after the introduction of women’s sports to Wake Forest, the women’s soccer team recorded two crucial ACC wins against NC State and Pittsburgh.

The Demon Deacons now occupy one of the vital top-six places necessary to secure qualification to the ACC Tournament, a feat they have not achieved since 2017.

The game against NC State was a dominant affair, with Wake Forest recording three times as many total shots and more than three times as many shots on goal. Yet it was a stroke of luck that broke the scoreless deadlock, as senior Sofia Rossi slalomed through defenders before playing a ball to fellow senior Giovanna Demarco. Demarco fired a shot from outside the box that appeared to be heading for the arms of the NC State goalkeeper. In an unfortunate moment for the Wolfpack, the ball instead skipped over her head to give the Deacs the lead.

Wake Forest continued to dominate play — especially in the second half — with countless attacking opportunities in front of an appreciative home crowd. But it was Demarco’s goal that proved decisive, giving the Deacs a bounce-back win after a disappointing home loss to an excellent Duke.

Wake Forest was without the presence of freshman Nikayla Small, who was called up as a training player to the Canadian national team’s Olympic celebration tour. Small has been involved with the Canadian national team program since u-15s, and was named the 2019 Best Canadian Youth Player. Small missed the NC State game, along with Wake Forest’s next test, a must-win away match against Pittsburgh.

Here, it was the Deacons who were initially unlucky, as a deflected shot from the Panthers seemed destined for sophomore Kaitlyn Parks’ net. With an incredible backward dive, Parks was able to tip the ball away from the net, but only so far as the crossbar, where it then fell into the path of Pitt’s Amanda West, who placed it into the empty net.

The two teams traded opportunities, with sophomore Sophie Faircloth’s free-kick cannoning off the crossbar right around the halfway point of the half. Ultimately, Wake Forest proved unable to equalize before halftime, entering the break trailing in a hugely important match for the team’s ACC tournament hopes.

The Deacs came out flying in the second half, with Faircloth winning a penalty just moments after the restart. Rossi lined up to take it, powering the ball to the goalkeeper’s right. Yet Pittsburgh’s senior goalkeeper Katherine Robinson came up with an immense save, leaping to the corner and parrying the ball away.

Rather than hang their heads, the Deacs continued to pressure deep into the Pittsburgh half. Minutes later, grad-transfer Jennifer Mehta was felled by a clumsy Pitt challenge, winning the Deacs their second penalty in just five minutes.

This time, it was Hulda Arnarsdottir who stepped up, slamming the ball into the roof of the net to level the score. Arnarsdottir capped off perhaps the most important two minutes of her Wake Forest career when the Deacs won possession immediately after. An excellent through ball found Arnarsdottir in space. The Icelandic attacker cut in and then out, firing a shot with her left foot that deflected off the crossbar directly to the foot of senior Shayla Smart. Smart collectedly placed the ball into the vacant net, resulting in her 10th goal of the season and a lead for the Deacs.

The scoring slowed down, but the action did not as both teams traded shots and opportunities in a hectic second half. Wake Forest goalkeeper Parks was again the hero, coming from seemingly nowhere to deny Pitt a late equalizer. The sophomore has recorded eight shutouts so far, a pace that must be maintained if the Deacs have aspirations of major tournament upsets.

Wake Forest enters the final match of the regular season tied with their opponents, Notre Dame, for fourth in the ACC. Defeating the Irish at home this Thursday is vital to secure home-field advantage in the first round of the tournament. The top six ACC teams qualify for the tournament, with seeds 3-6 playing a preliminary round which kicks off on Oct. 31.