Women’s soccer upsets No. 2 Blue Devils

The Demon Deacons triumph over Duke to move on to tournament semifinals


Wake Forest had reason to celebrate after defeating Duke in the first round of the ACC tournament. Next up is Florida State on Nov. 5.

Charles Horn, Staff Writer

It’s rare for a team to not hang their heads after conceding a late goal, to cheer on and encourage each other, to immediately return to the fray. It is even rarer to beat the No. 2 team in the country on their home turf — where they have lost just once all season — in the quarterfinals of the NCAA’s most difficult soccer tournament. Yet, on Sunday, under the lights of Duke’s Koskinen Stadium, in weather that reminded you that the season had changed from summer to fall, the Wake Forest women’s soccer team did all that and more, toppling the Blue Devils 2-1.

Tenacity and grit are the buzzwords that fill coach’s speeches across every sport, but this season they have rung true for the Deacs.  Both at home and away, the team has fought until the last minute, going to overtime on multiple occasions and only losing by more than a goal once, a 2-0 loss at home to Duke.

Grad-transfer Jennifer Menta, a former Big East Offensive Player of the Year at Georgetown, has exemplified this competitive drive. Even so, nothing she had done this season to date could compare to the long sprint down the right-hand side she made Sunday that proved decisive for the Deacs.

Menta had opened the scoring in the first half, as elegant link-up play led to freshman Nikayla Small — recently returned from the Canadian National Team’s training camp — finding space in the box. Her left-footed cross whizzed through the crisp fall air, meeting an onrushing Menta who gave the Deacs the lead. Even this early goal was an impressive feat, as Duke had not conceded in five matches, including an earlier win over Wake Forest

The Demon Deacon’s pressed relentlessly, taking the game to Duke and recording eight shots to the Blue Devils’ five in the first half. Such a style was a clear departure from the two teams’ previous meeting, where Wake Forest’s press was disjointed at times and non-existent at others. Head Coach Tony da Luz, in his 25th season at the helm, made tough lineup choices. He chose to bring Small off the bench and deploy her on the flanks rather than through the center.

Throughout the match, a mesmerizing battle unfolded between freshman Zara Chavoshi and Duke’s freshman star Michelle Cooper. Cooper’s speed and skill makes her one of the most difficult players to defend in the country. Yet, Chavoshi’s performance was near perfect. The freshman defender was everywhere, stepping into midfield to win 50-50 balls and denying Cooper the space she needed to attack the Demon Deacons’ goal.

Cooper’s skill did prove too much for the Deacs in the 84th minute when she turned past Chavoshi and executed a move that culminated in Olivia Migli slotting the ball past sophomore keeper Kaitlyn Parks.

To concede late against a top-ranked team — in a match in which you have led for nearly fifty minutes — could understandably cause shoulders to sink with fatigue. Yet, when the Deacs kicked off, they had one objective: retaking the lead as fast as possible.

The Deacs charged forward, with Menta driving towards the end line and firing a cross into a dangerous position in hopes of finding the foot of a teammate. It was not a teammate that Menta found, but rather Duke’s Emily Royson who inadvertently directed the ball into her own net. Within just seconds, Wake Forest had re-taken the lead, beginning a mad scramble to finish out the game, one which exemplified the defensive resilience exhibited by the Deacs throughout the season to date.

As the final whistle blew, the traveling Wake Forest fans erupted as the team stormed the field, embracing in an ecstatic celebration befitting of the Herculean task they had just completed.

Of course, in the ACC Tournament, the tests just keep coming. Next up is a trip to Cary N.C., where No. 3 Florida State awaits in the semifinals. Unlike Wake Forest, the Seminoles enjoyed a first-round bye. On the other side of the bracket, Clemson will face Virginia in the other semifinal match.