Soccer Notebook: 11/12

Just some quick notes on the soccer teams, including a quick season recap for the men's team heading into tonight's ACC Tourney quarterfinal against Virginia.

Men's Season in Review

MVP: Jared Watts. Despite (in my opinion), not having as good a year as he did last season, Watts still was the focal point for everything that Wake tries to do. He racks up the most passes and the most touches, and he provides the calming influence that the Deacs need. With apologies to Sean Okoli and Luca Gimenez for their attacking contributions.

Best Performance: The clinic against Davidson was pretty special. Everyone played, and Davidson didn't generate a legitimate chance on goal, while Wake cruised. But the winner has to be the 2-1 win over VCU after going a goal and man down on a bogus red card to Okoli. Defenders Tolani Ibikunle and Sam Fink each scored for the Deacs.

Best Performance, conference play: The first 80 minutes against Virginia, wherein the Deacs were up 3-0 against a good team.

Worst Performance: The last 10 minutes against Virginia and the last 5 minutes against Duke. It's been a bit of a theme this year, but Wake has failed to close games. The 3-0 lead against Virginia became a nail-biting 3-2 win, and a 1-0 lead became 2-0 late in the Duke game before Duke scored goals 40 seconds apart for a 2-2 draw.

Best Team: The only game I saw that Wake actually lost was against Notre Dame, and the Deacs played the Irish pretty evenly despite the final score. The non-Wake team that most impressed me (and I didn't see Maryland) was probably North Carolina. But put a gun to my head on this, and I'll say the most impressive team I saw for most of the season was Wake.

Best Freshman: A two-person race. Ian Harkes has played well from Day 1, and I wouldn't be surprised to know he led the team in minutes. But in terms of transformational impact, the play of Jacori Hayes has been spectacular. He doesn't look like much (he's probably about 5-6 and maybe 130 pounds), but he's quicker than anyone else on the field and is phenomenal at winning balls back.

Best Moment: Jalen Robinson's header goal with 50 seconds left against #1 UNC to force overtime. Without question.

Unsung Heroes: Fink, Robinson, Ibikunle, and Duvall - the first choice back-four - have all been phenomenal at various stretches this season. Offensively, Okoli and Gimenez get the credit, but the play of Andy Lubahn and sub Philip Parker has been fantastic. Hayes' play in the midfield also deserves (another) mention.

Moving Forward: The Deacs host Virginia tonight in the 3/6 game of the ACC Tourney at 7 p.m. at Spry Stadium. As mentioned, the Deacs beat the Wahoos 3-2 in a game that the Deacs led 3-0 with 10 minutes to go before Virginia scored twice on Wake backups (prompting Vidovich to put the starters back in). Virginia eliminated the Deacs at this stage last season on penalties in a game that was also at Spry Stadium.

One Final Note

The women's soccer team was given an at-large selection into the NCAA Women's Tournament, extending its streak to 16 straight seasons. The Deacs will host Morehead State, the Ohio Valley Conference champs, on Saturday at 7 p.m., with the winner likely to play #4-seeded Penn State in the following round, with (gulp) #1 overall seed Virginia looming down the line. Obviously, everyone should come out and support the Deacs in this, if only to give a resounding farewell to this year's illustrious senior class.

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