No. 1 men’s soccer improves to 9-0

A pair of 6-1 victories cemented the Demon Deacons as the top team in the country


Evan Harris

The men’s soccer team greets the crowd at Spry Stadium after a 6-1 victory over George Mason.

Matthew Kulynych, Contributing Writer

The Wake Forest Demon Deacons thoroughly justified their place atop the United Soccer Coaches Poll rankings by collecting a pair of 6-1 wins at home to George Mason and away at No. 10 Clemson. Wake Forest improved to 9-0-0, and 3-0-0 in conference play, becoming one of only two undefeated teams in the nation, the other squad being the Charlotte 49ers.

On Tuesday, Sept. 20, the Demon Deacons picked up a completely dominant 6-1 win against the George Mason Patriots. Wake Forest claimed control from the start of the match, and the goal-fest would start in the 27th minute following a corner kick from junior Jahlane Forbes. Though the ball was initially cleared, freshman Samuel Jones, who in his first career start, flicked a header back into the box, where midfielder Leo Guarino reacted quickest, taking a touch and slotting the ball into the bottom left corner.

George Mason got on the board with three minutes remaining in the half, as they capitalized on a defensive error to score past sophomore goalkeeper Trace Alphin. Fortunately for Wake Forest, the lead would be restored 2 minutes later. Midfielder Sidney Paris received a pass from Aethan Yohannes, made a brilliant turn around a defender, and whipped in a gorgeous cross for captain Garrison Tubbs. Tubbs would make no mistake with the header, placing it neatly inside the right-hand post just before the halftime whistle.

The Demon Deacons found lots of space and created a lot of chances from the wings in the first half. The Wake Forest wingers and fullbacks were a constant thorn in the Patriot defense, but the Demon Deacons could only manage the two goals in the first half despite complete and utter dominance.

The momentum consistently brought on the wings would find a way to create numerous goals in the second half for Wake Forest, with all four goals originating on the left hand side. The first of these goals, and the Demon Deacons’ third on the night, would come after a Jahlane Forbes pass to junior Colin Thomas on the left wing allowed Thomas to dribble to the end line and play a perfect cut back to midfielder Oscar Sears, who produced a fine finish into the far corner. 

Sears would be involved again in the 57th minute when junior Chase Oliver dribbled in from the left wing and played a ball to the feet of forward Roald Mitchell at the top of the box. Mitchell expertly laid the ball for Sears, who produced a Messi-esque backheel flick into the box to set up Oliver. The junior dinked a shot to the keeper’s right and celebrated his SportsCenter Top 10 play goal with a perfectly executed back handspring.

Just three minutes later, left-back Forbes would finally get in on the goals, when Oscar Sears intercepted a pass from the Patriot defense, dribbled forward, and slotted a perfect pass on the left side of the penalty box for the overlapping run of Forbes. The defender laced a powerful shot that the keeper couldn’t handle. 

Forbes would also help in the Demon Deacons’ final goal of the night when he played a first-time ball across the 6-yard box following a pass from Vlad Walent. Despite a hard, dangerous tackle from a George Mason defender, senior David Wrona was able to poke the ball into the net from close range and finish off a marvelous display from the Demon Deacons. They would outshoot the Patriots 21-1, setting up what looked to be an exciting match the next weekend against the Clemson Tigers.

The Deacons replicated their 6-1 win on Tuesday with a win of the same scoreline against the Clemson Tigers in South Carolina. The Demon Deacons made the former No. 1 team look like house cats rather than Tigers, in what felt like revenge for the loss in football earlier that day. 

Forward Baba Niang would open the scoring for the Demon Deacons with a spectacular curled shot from 25 yards in the 17th minute. He dribbled in from the wing and passed for Roald Mitchell. Despite getting taken out from behind by a Clemson defender, Mitchell could orient himself well enough to play it back to Niang, who unleashed a shot into the top right corner that left Clemson’s keeper rooted to his spot.

Wake would double their lead with another screamer in the 27th minute, this time from midfielder Hosei Kijima. Freshman phenom Cooper Flax played a ball to the junior Kijima at the top of the box from a corner kick, where Kijima took a touch and unleashed a low, curling shot past three Clemson defenders and into the bottom left corner. Kijima hit a perfect knee slide in the corner, and the team followed up with a dog pile to celebrate the goal.

The Demon Deacons would take the 2-0 lead into halftime, but had it not been for a world-class performance from goalkeeper Trace Alphin, the score could have been much different. The Wake #1 came up with four critical saves in the first half to keep the Demon Deacons’ lead, despite being outshot by Clemson 10-7 thus far.

Much like in the game against George Mason, the 2nd half would start brilliantly for the Demon Deacons. A forward who truly cannot help but get involved in goals, Roald Mitchell received a pass from midfield and played it into the path of the on running freshman Vlad Walent. The pacey winger dribbled into the box and knocked his defender completely off balance with a shifty cut, and then he placed a shot to the near post to extend the lead to 3-0 in the 50th minute.

Mitchell came extremely close to getting the fourth goal in the 58th minute, but the keeper managed to come up with an excellent save to deny the Demon Deacons’ top scorer his 7th goal of the season. Wake would instead find their fourth only five minutes later through Chase Oliver. Jahlane Forbes dribbled with pace past the Clemson right-back and cut the ball back towards the penalty spot. Senior Omar Hernandez played a brilliant dummy, leaving the ball for Oliver who flawlessly placed the shot into the bottom left corner. The entire team joined him in exuberant celebration, as the Demon Deacons fully established their control of the game.

The Demon Deacons would add the fifth goal in the 77th minute through Leo Guarino. The buildup play started all the way from Alphin, and culminated in Sydney Paris playing a perfect first-time ball across the box to Guarino. Guarino calmly took his first touch to set up a shooting lane past the covering defender, and he placed it in off the right hand post.

The collapse would continue for the clearly distraught Tigers, when midfielder Ryan Fessler played in Paris, who played another low cross to the edge of the 6-yard box. A sliding Clemson defender couldn’t do enough, as the ball fell kindly for Sears, whose sleep celebration showed that he had fully put the game to bed.

However, in what was the only blemish on an otherwise spectacular performance from Alphin, he took out a Clemson attacker in the box for a penalty kick with 30 seconds remaining. Clemson striker Brandon Parrish managed to score the spot kick, but the Demon Deacons would get the final of many laughs as the final whistle confirmed the massive 6-1 win. 

The undisputed No. 1 Demon Deacons will have the full week to prepare for their next spot of competition, as the Duke Blue Devils travel to Winston-Salem to face the Demon Deacons on Saturday, Oct. 1.