Men’s soccer beats Wofford, falls to Virginia

Wake Forest takes their third loss in October ahead of their regular season finale


Wake Forest and Wofford battle for control of the ball during a 3-0 home win for the Demon Deacons.

Matthew Kulynych, Staff Writer

The No. 25-ranked Demon Deacons split last week’s results, winning 3-0 at home against the Wofford Terriers, but falling 1-0 on the road to No. 24 Virginia. These two results move Wake Forest to 12-4-0 on the season and 4-3-0 in ACC play.
Following a crucial 3-1 win at home to Boston College the weekend prior, Wake Forest was looking to continue its momentum into the match last Tuesday against the Wofford Terriers. They would do just that, taking five shots and putting on waves of pressure within the first 10 minutes. Sophomore midfielder Ryan Fessler came close to opening the scoring in the 11th minute following some great passing in the build-up. Junior defender Jahlane Forbes took a touch in the field and split two Wofford defenders with a beautiful pass to the feet of sophomore Roald Mitchell. The striker received it at the top of the box and touched it into the path of Fessler, who hammered a strike from just outside the box that flew just over the crossbar.
The Demon Deacons’ pressure and dominance would pay off just minutes later following a free kick. Ryan Fessler let a shot fly from 30 yards, which had the Wofford keeper scrambling across the goal. He was able to make a flying save to his right-hand side, but the rebound fell to the feet of defender Vlad Walent. The freshman tried to feed it across the box to Roald Mitchell, but the cross was blocked. Fortunately, it fell back to Walent, who took a touch toward the end line and played another ball across the six-yard box. Captain Garrison Tubbs was on hand to tap the ball in from close range for the junior’s second goal of the year, and the Demon Deacons took a deserved 1-0 lead.
While Wake Forest could not find another goal before the half, their dominance continued throughout the half. Sophomore goalkeeper Trace Alphin did not have much to do, but was sharp when called upon—he made a great save in the 24th minute to keep the score in favor of the home side. Wake Forest took the 1-0 lead and an 11-3 shot advantage into the break.
The Demon Deacons would come out flying in the second half, finding their second goal in under four minutes. Stalwart midfielder Takuma Suzuki flew into a crunching, but fair, slide tackle at midfield, and the senior won the ball off of a Wofford attacker. He carried the ball forward a couple more feet and then placed a perfect through ball into the path of the in-form junior Oscar Sears. The Swedish midfielder took a couple of dribbles into the box and cut inside his defender onto his right foot. With a little deflection off the defender’s foot, the ball bounced up nicely for Sears to unleash a thunderous strike into the bottom left corner, leaving the Terrier goalkeeper rooted to his spot. This was Sears’ sixth goal on the year, which puts him level with Roald Mitchell atop the Deacons’ goalscoring charts.
As I have reported on numerous times in the past couple of weeks, Wake Forest was struggling with injuries in the midfield. With that being said, it was a huge boost to see freshman midfielder Cooper Flax jog onto the pitch in the 60th minute for his first appearance since getting injured in the 6-1 victory over Clemson one month prior. His return could be crucial, with the regular season ending in just a couple of weeks and the ACC and possible NCAA tournament to follow.
Despite the scoreline, the second half was not easy for the Demon Deacons. The Terriers amped up the pressure after going down 2-0, and they had a lot of success breaking up Wake Forest attacks, often forcing errors and clearances.
The Demon Deacons held strong, however, as they found the game-sealing goal, a shot in the 90th minute by sophomore midfielder Leo Guarino. Fellow striker Julian Kennedy picked the ball up in midfield, dribbling through an onslaught of Terrier defenders. Drawing the backline away, Kennedy was able to find a simple pass to Guarino, who took two touches and chipped the ball over the leg of the onrushing goalkeeper and into the back of the net. The goal would seal the victory, and give Wake Forest its 12th win of the year.
Unfortunately, the Demon Deacons’ momentum couldn’t be carried into the weekend, when Wake Forest lost 1-0 to the Virginia Cavaliers in Charlottesville. Despite a 15-7 shot advantage in favor of the Demon Deacons, they couldn’t find the net and left Virginia empty-handed.
Wake Forest controlled the opening 25 minutes of the match. Outside of a single shot from the Cavaliers, most of the chances came for the Demon Deacons early on. Sophomore midfielder Ryan Fessler came the closest to opening the scoring in the seventh minute. Sophomore forward Baba Niang’s tricky dribbling won a free kick for the Demon Deacons just outside the box, and the free kick maestro Fessler stepped up to take the kick. He struck the ball near-perfectly, as his shot flew over the wall and towards the top left corner, but it needed just a couple of inches more to the right as it struck the post and UVA cleared for a corner.
Redshirt sophomore defender Cristian Escribano had a decent opportunity to open the scoring as well in the 27th minute. An excellent piece of footwork saw him glide past a couple of UVA defenders at the top right corner of the box, but his shot didn’t have the conviction as it sailed over the top left corner.
Virginia would grow a little more into the game in the final 15 minutes of the match, as their pressing finally began to force a couple of mistakes by Wake Forest. Their pressure didn’t amount to any clear chances, as the halftime whistle blew with Wake Forest holding a 7-3 shot advantage, but a 0-0 scoreline.
Virginia came out of the half looking a little better, but clear-cut chances for both sides were hard to come by early in the half. However, the Cavaliers would find the opening goal in the 63rd minute. The play started with a Virginia goal kick, which fell to Cavalier forward Phillip Horton. He managed to squeak by junior defender Garrison Tubbs and play a good through ball to a cutting midfielder. The Cavalier received it in stride and beat Trace Alphin with a good shot to the bottom left corner, and UVA took the lead.
Minutes later, junior midfielder Colin Thomas could not find the equalizer. A Virginia defender whiffed on a defensive header, and forward Roald Mitchell was able to claim the loose ball. The star sophomore then played a perfect ball into the run of Colin Thomas on the right-hand side of the box, but his touch stayed a little too close to his body and he couldn’t quite get the ball out of his feet for a clean strike, as it flew wide of the top left corner.
The Demon Deacons turned the pressure up in the final 15 minutes of the game, pushing for the heavily needed equalizer. The game’s physicality ramped up, as UVA collected three yellow cards within the final 12 minutes of the match. Leo Guarino and Roald Mitchell both came close, with Mitchell’s shot forcing a corner following a bicycle kick attempt, but they couldn’t quite find a goal. Baba Niang had the ball in the net with two minutes to go, but it was waved off due to a foul on the goalkeeper in the fray.
The full-time whistle confirmed the Demon Deacons’ defeat, but it wasn’t the only sour note on the day. The usually ever-present captain Garrison Tubbs limped off the pitch with four minutes to go. This could be a huge blow for the Demon Deacons if he remains injured, with the ACC tournament just around the corner. In the end, though, the rocky October for Wake continued with their third defeat in the month.
Wake Forest will look to end the regular season on a high on Friday when the No. 11 ranked Louisville Cardinals come to Spry for a crucial final match and the Demon Deacons look to claim a higher seed in the ACC Tournament.