Men’s soccer falls in semifinals of ACC tournament

The Demon Deacons fail to replicate their victorious regular season matchup in 0-2 decision versus Clemson


Evan Harris

Goaltender Trace Alphin (No. 1 in green) awaits a corner kick from the Clemson offense.

Matthew Kulynych, Staff Writer

The No. 20-ranked and No. 4-seed Demon Deacons fell to the No. 18-ranked and No. 8-seed Clemson Tigers 2-0 in the ACC Tournament semifinals on Wednesday night. The Tigers dominated from the start, holding a potent Wake Forest attack to only two shots on the night. Wake Forest will now have to turn focus to their twelfth straight NCAA tournament appearance. They open Thursday night against Ohio State at Spry.
Earlier this season, the Demon Deacons defeated the defending national champion Tigers 6-1 on the road, but Clemson came into this game as one of the hottest teams in the ACC, winning its last four games prior to Wednesday’s matchup.
The crowd at Spry Stadium was packed, with a line outside the gate going all the way down to Carroll Weathers Drive 10 minutes before kickoff. There were hardly any empty seats in the bleachers or spots on the hill.
From the first kick, the game got pretty chippy. The referee blew for six fouls in the first five minutes and awarded a yellow card to a Clemson defender just two minutes into the game after a hard foul on sophomore forward Baba Niang about 45 yards from goal. Clemson cleared the ensuing kick, but the referee had established the precedent that he was not going to let anything slide. Wake Forest received what appeared to be a harsh yellow card in the 10th minute, when sophomore midfielder Ryan Fessler unfortunately blocked a shot at the edge of the box with his arm.
Clemson’s press was causing issues for the Demon Deacons from the start, and it paid off with a beautiful goal in the 14th minute. Forward Brandon Parrish, who made national headlines with a stunning goal to secure the win against the No. 1-seed Duke Blue Devils last Sunday, made headlines again with his goal. The Clemson press forced a giveaway in midfield, and the ball then found its way to Parrish 25 yards from goal. He took a touch and unleashed a shot into the top left corner, leaving the diving sophomore goalkeeper Trace Alphin no chance. It was a deserved lead for Clemson, who had dominated from the start.

PHOTOS: Wake Forest men’s soccer falls to Clemson 2-0

Both the Demon Deacons and the Tigers would add to their yellow card tallies just a few minutes later. In the 17th minute, a Clemson defender took out Baba Niang from behind on a counter, earning a yellow card. However, the Demon Deacons could not capitalize on the foul, with Clemson clearing and countering. Just 20 seconds later, junior Wake Forest defender Prince Amponsah went in hard on a tackle near the edge of the box, earning himself a yellow card. Fortunately, Clemson couldn’t create anything off the free kick, but they still dominated proceedings.
Trace Alphin was forced into an awkward save in the 32nd minute. Following a cross to the edge of the area, Clemson managed to get a seemingly tame header toward the goal. However, it had just enough power and height to make it awkward for Alphin, who was forced to smartly tip the ball over the bar for a corner. Clemson whipped the ensuing corner across the box, where it struck the edge of the far post and fortunately ricocheted away from the goal.
The halftime whistle put an end to what had been probably the most challenging half of the season for the Demon Deacons. The Clemson shape and press had completely eliminated the midfield for the Demon Deacons, and they were forced to try long balls which Clemson was ready for. Wake Forest had not attempted a single shot in the first half, whereas the Tigers had taken nine. Something really needed to change if Wake Forest wanted to get back into the game.
The second half started in the same way the first half had played out. Clemson shut down the Wake Forest midfield and read any long balls that Wake Forest tried to play to bypass the press. Clemson won three corner kicks in the first 15 minutes of the half, and they managed to find their second goal of the match on the third of these corners in the 60th minute. Though Wake Forest headed the initial delivery away, it didn’t go far. Tiger midfielder Derek Waleffe reacted quickest to the clearance, lashing a volley that looked like it was going to be saveable for Trace Alphin. However, it took a wicked deflection off junior defender Garrison Tubbs, sending it into the top right corner and doubling the Tigers’ lead.
Through the first 65 minutes, Wake Forest had still not attempted a single shot. Defender Cristian Escribano would be the one to finally add a shot to the stat sheet, when he struck the ball near where Clemson had found their first goal. The redshirt sophomore couldn’t replicate the shot from earlier, though, as it rolled wide of the left post.
Clemson let off a little after scoring their second goal, which let Wake Forest build up more possession and freedom in the midfield. However, the Tigers’ defense held its shape well and did not allow the Demon Deacons to create much. The Tigers cleared everything the Demon Deacons threw at them, and it seemed less likely that Wake Forest would find their way back into the match.
Despite the compact shape of the Tigers’ defense, sophomore striker Roald Mitchell almost cut the deficit in half in the 84th minute. Swedish midfielder Oscar Sears flicked a ball in behind for Mitchell at the edge of the box. Mitchell had the composure to take a touch around and hold off his defender, but he pushed his shot wide of the right-side post as the Clemson keeper rushed out.
The final whistle put an end to the match and Wake Forest’s run in the ACC Tournament. Clemson controlled the midfield from start to finish while remaining compact and strong while defending their lead. In a chippy match that saw 31 fouls called, Clemson outshot Wake Forest 14-2 and advanced to play the No. 3 ranked and No. 2 seed Syracuse Orange in the ACC Championship.
Following the NCAA Tournament Selection Show on Monday, the Demon Deacons found out that they will be hosting the Ohio State Buckeyes on Thursday night at 6 p.m. The winner will travel to play the UNC-Greensboro Spartans on Sunday, Nov. 20.