Demon Deacons sit atop national rankings

A pair of wins for Wake Forest Men’s Soccer extends their record to an undefeated 7-0 on the season.


Photo courtesy of Wake Forest Athletics

The Wake Forest Men’s Soccer Team high-five the Spry crowd after a home victory. The Demon Deacons have been ranked top five nationally in attendance each year since 2015

Aaron Nataline, Sports Editor

The Demon Deacons collected another pair of wins this past weekend to go along with the United Soccer Coaches Poll ranking Wake Forest at No. 1. In other words, the team dominated the competition as its impressive nationwide ranking implies it should. The squad now carries a 7-0-0 record on the season, the second in five years to rack up seven wins to start the season.

I whimsically concluded the last recap wondering if Wake Forest could extend the home-field winning streak to 12 against the Fairleigh Dickinson Knights. I now whimsically report that the Demon Deacons did just that in a true back-and-forth match on Tuesday, Sept. 13 in which they won 3-2. The next game on Sept. 16 against Virginia Tech had nothing in common with the former besides Wake Forest securing a win. The away game proved defensive and scrappy, with Wake Forest earning a 1-0 victory in the end.

In the matchup between the Deacons and the Knights, neither team scored consecutive goals. Wake Forest treaded through the intense trading of scores on the safer side; they spent zero minutes down, while the Knights found themselves playing catch-up.

Momentum favored Wake Forest to begin the first 45 regarding time of possession. The Demon Deacons brought energy early, as displayed by the first on goal coming just six minutes into the match. Junior Jahlene Forbes rocketed the shot from just outside the 18-yard box with the tasteful curve necessary to sink the ball into the top corner of the same side the ball started on. The Fairleigh Dickinson goalkeeper managed to successfully deflect it, but the quick and on-target shot hinted at the pressure that would follow from Wake Forest’s offense.

That pressure came with style in the 18th minute. Defender Vlad Walent, a freshman who seems to be involved in all of Wake Forest’s most energy-ramping moments, kick-started the play by booming an upline pass to midfielder Ryan Fessler. Fessler then delivered a beautiful crosser into the box, where the average collegiate soccer player might receive the pass and complete the score with a foot on the ground. But sophomore Roald Mitchell was there, so he opted to fly into the air and send the ball over the goalkeeper’s head with a mind-warping scissor kick. It was quite ridiculous, ridiculous enough to be featured as the No. 2 play in SportCenter’s Top 10 that weekend.

I credit the Knights with not being shell-shocked by this superhuman moment, since they were able to tie the match up 1-1 just six minutes later on a breakaway. This score stood untouched at the end of the half with both teams closing out the first 45 with solid defense.

The trading of goals resumed in the second half, featuring Wake Forest’s Colin Thomas the spark. In the 64th minute, the junior from Canton, Georgia, convinced one defender for the Knights to go in one direction as Thomas juked in another, from which he split another two defenders with a through ball to forward Roald Mitchell. Naturally, two scissor-kick scores would be a bit over the top, so Mitchell cut a simple shot across the six-yard box for his second goal of the night.

Once again, Fairleigh Dickinson refused to trail for long. They earned a corner kick in the 68th minute that Knights defender Hugo Bacharach headed into the goal, evening the match out at 2-2.

So, which Demon Deacon brought home the victory with the final, game-winning goal? It was your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man: Cooper Flax.

The last score of the night found its start with junior Os- car Sears feeding the ball into the penalty box after the Demon Deacons neutralized a counter from Fairleigh Dickinson. Defender Jahlene Forbes was there to collect the pass, and he spread the love by sending a crosser to freshman Cooper Flax cutting into the six-yard box. Flax chipped the ball into the top right corner of the webbing to bring the game to 3-2 in the 75th minute. From there the last goal scorer of the match ran along the goal line pretending to shoot Peter Parker-like webs from his wrists.

While the win versus the knights featured obvious heroes, the 1-0 match against Virginia Tech relied on disciplined defense.

The Demon Deacons played at Thompson Field in Blacksburg, Virginia for their first ACC game on the road, making the clean sheet that much more impressive. Juniors Prince Amponsah and Garrison Tubbs were constantly disrupting the opposing squad’s first-half breakaways, which were limited by the rest of the team’s tenacity in transition.

The Hokies also defended their home pitch well. Neither team found the opportunity for a shot through the first 20 minutes. The first one notched came from Virginia Tech as well, but goalkeeper Trace Alphin easily snatched it down. Wake Forest immediately responded with a shot of their own in the 22nd minute after defender Cristian Escriba

Forward Omar Hernandez presses the Demon Deacon’s attack in a match against NC State (Photo courtesy of Wake Forest Athletics)

no generated a turnover. Midfielder Colin Thomas sliced through the 18-yard box with a pass to junior Jahlene Forbes. Forbes faked the goalkeeper to his knees, but his shot was ultimately headed away from the goal by a defender on the recovery.

The Deacons closed out the half with defense that refused to even bend from there as they led the shot count 6-1.

Opportunity met execution in the 54th minute for Wake Forest. Freshman Vlad Walent collected a cleared ball before sending a behind the back pass to midfielder Cooper Flax. The freshman tipped the ball onto Colin Thomas, and the junior secured his first goal of the season by launching one into the bottom right corner.

Up 1-0, the Deacons began feeling more pressure from the trailing Hokies. Virginia Tech counters were finding their way deeper and deeper into Wake Forest’s side of the green. Fatigue from a conference game deadlocked for so long had the Demon Deacon defense bending but not breaking.

Goalkeeper Trace Alphin fought to keep the clean sheet on his end. When a patient Hokies possession culminated with a shot on goal in the 54th minute, Alphin dove in a flash to keep a speeding ball from ripping the bottom right corner of the goal.

The resilience of Wake Forest’s defense persisted throughout the second 45, and the match ended in a solid road win that brings the Deacons’ ACC record to 2-0. With this successful trip, head coach Bobby Muus is now 6-0-1 in his career against Virginia Tech.

Spry Stadium welcomed its next opponent, George Mason, on Tuesday, Sept. 20 in a match where the Deacons displayed no mercy. Though the game saw Wake Forest lead a modest 2-1 through the first 45, the team piled on four more goals to win 6-1. Each score came wrapped and gifted by a different player, but captain Garrison Tubbs’s stood out as it was his first of the season.

Next, the No. 1 team in the country will travel to Clemson for its third ACC match on Sept. 24. The Tigers slipped from the top ranking that the Deacons now hold after falling to Syrcause this past Friday. Wake Forest will thus have the chance to defend their premiere ranking in South Carolina in the most anticipated match to date.