Men’s soccer advances to ACC semifinals

The 1-0 victory against Virginia Tech sets up a matchup with Clemson


Evan Harris

Defender Garrison Tubbs (No. 32 in black) makes a play on the ball.

Matthew Kulynych, Staff Writer

In the quarterfinals of the ACC Men’s Soccer Tournament, the No. 4 seed Wake Forest Demon Deacons defeated the No. 12 seed Virginia Tech Hokies 1-0 on a rainy Sunday afternoon at Spry Stadium. The Hokies advanced from the first round after upsetting the No. 5 seed Louisville Cardinals, but they couldn’t continue their Cinderella run against the Demon Deacons. The lone goal came from senior midfielder Omar Hernandez, and the defense held strong to secure a controlled, but slim, tournament victory.
Spry Stadium was packed, with the Demon Deacon faithful, but there was a different feeling in the air. The anticipation and excitement could be felt as you walked through the gates, and both the stands and the hill were packed. The crowd really brought the energy despite the rainy conditions.
Though Wake Forest had the first couple shots of the match, including a decent shot from long range by sophomore forward Roald Mitchell, Virginia Tech would have the first major chance to open the scoring in the 10th minute. The Hokies’ goalkeeper sent his goal kick long, and it was flicked on to the striker. His shot from 25 yards forced sophomore goalkeeper Trace Alphin into a diving save off to his left, and the rebound popped up right to another Hokie attacker. Alphin reacted quickly and blocked the follow-up attempt, allowing for the Demon Deacons to clear.
From then on, Wake Forest seemed to click into another gear offensively, with Roald Mitchell at the center of it all. He missed a decent opportunity following a cross by left-back Jahlane Forbes, and would have been clean through on goal on an opportunity in the 19th minute had he not been tripped up by a yellow-card-worthy tackle by a Virginia Tech defender.
The Demon Deacons had their best chance so far through a seemingly unlikely source in junior defender Prince Amponsah. In the 22nd minute, freshman midfielder Cooper Flax whipped in a teasing corner, and Amponsah jumped highest over the goalkeeper who came out to punch clear. Unfortunately, his header went straight onto the crossbar, and Virginia Tech was able to clear.
The game was abruptly brought to a halt with 20 minutes to go in the half as lightning was detected in the area. It seemed like it might halt the Demon Deacons’ growing momentum, but following the 45-minute delay, their momentum only got stronger, taking four shots in the first five minutes since the restart.The best of these chances came from another corner kick. This time, junior Jahlane Forbes played it short from the right side to Cooper Flax, who laid it back off for Forbes running back toward the top corner of the box. Forbes’ wicked cross found the head of senior midfielder Takuma Suzuki near the far left post, but his header flashed across goal and narrowly missed to the right.
The rain began to settle with 10-or-so minutes left in the half, and this accompanied an increased bit of pressure from Virginia Tech. However, the latest great chance of the match went to Wake Forest. Right-back Cristian Escribano dribbled infield from the right hand side, and then played an absolutely beautiful through ball with his weaker left foot to freshman Vlad Walent. The winger sprinted past his defender and beat the onrushing goalkeeper to the ball near the left side of the sixyard box, but his shot could only find the right post and yet another great chance for the Demon Deacons went begging.
The halftime whistle put an end to a half that Wake Forest had dominated, but unfortunately, they did not have a goal to show for it. Despite coming close numerous times, including the shots off the woodwork, the Demon Deacons could not find a goal to sweeten their 10-2 shot advantage.
The second half started much slower than the first. Wake Forest got a couple of shots off from a corner two minutes in, but neither really threatened. The Demon Deacons took 3 shots in the first 15 minutes of the 2nd half, none of which really troubled the Virginia Tech goalkeeper.
Midfielder Omar Hernandez entered the match in the 61st minute for his first appearance of the day. This was a significant match for the senior, as exactly one year prior to this match he picked up an injury that left him sidelined until only a couple months ago. The former Atlanta United academy prospect must have been looking to make a big impact on the game to emphatically push that injury to the side.
Hernandez would get his chance to make that impact following a controversial moment in the match. In the 62nd minute, Roald Mitchell was played through on goal, but was taken down by a sliding Virginia Tech defender, who earned a yellow card. In the scuffle, Baba Niang went down clutching his face, but after a lengthy review, the referee determined that neither the tackle or the incident with Niang was worth a red card.
However, the Demon Deacons still had a dangerous free kick, and as Omar Hernandez waited on the pitch, that danger was only amplified. With one of the best free kicks you will see this season, Hernandez struck his first goal of the season, and Wake Forest’s first goal of the match, beyond the wall and perfectly into the top left corner. Spry Stadium erupted following the rocket of a free kick, and Wake Forest had taken the lead.
It took until the 71st minute for Virginia Tech to get their first shot of the half on a header, but it tamely fell wide right. They would get a second chance two minutes later, again off a header, but this time it went straight into the hands of Trace Alphin. Tempers really began to boil late on, as the Hokies became increasingly frustrated as the Demon Deacons wasted precious time.
In the final minute of the match, Virginia Tech had their last chance from a throw in. Tensions were high, and the stadium collectively held their breath and stood as the ensuing throw was sent long into the box. The Demon Deacons, however, were able to clear, and sophomore midfielder Leo Guarino raced into Virginia Tech’s half with a single defender and Roald Mitchell off to his left. With five seconds left, Guarino squared for Mitchell who calmly slotted the ball into the back of the net, but the offside flag went up, negating the goal. However, the final whistle came seconds later to secure the quarterfinal victory for the Demon Deacons.
Wake Forest ended the match with a 15-5 shot advantage to accompany the 1-0 win. Next up for the Demon Deacons is a semifinal match on Wednesday, Nov. 9 at Spry Stadium against defending national champion and No. 8 seed Clemson Tigers, who defeated the No. 1 seed Duke Blue Devils 2-0 on the road Sunday night. The winner will travel to WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, North Carolina for the ACC Championship next Sunday, Nov. 13 against either the Virginia Cavaliers or the Syracuse Orange.