That's a bit more like it.
In perhaps their most impressive performance since the news of Katie Stengel's blood clots, Wake Forest dominated Morehead State 2-0 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at Spry Stadium behind rapidly successive goals from Courtney Owen and Riley Ridgik.
The Eagles actually opened the game aggressively, winning an early corner kick and generating a decent chance via a designed play. Elizabeth McSparin's corner kick found Lindsey Oettle at the near post, who in turn flicked the ball to the far post to the surprise of the Wake defense. However, no Morehead player could capitalize on the misplaced defense, and the ball rolled harmlessly away. It would prove to be Morehead's best chance of the game.
In the 18th minute, Ally Berry was able to beat the Eagles offsides trap and was able to touch the ball past goalie Elizabeth Floyd towards the touchline. However, her shot from a tight angle was cleared off the line by a retreating Eagle defender.
Two minutes later, after sustained Deacon pressure, the dam broke. Ridgik played Jackie McSally into space on the left flank, and McSally's high cross to the back post found Owen after Floyd was unable to reach the ball. Owen, who is the smallest player on the Wake roster, found the empty net with the header for her first career goal.
Ridgik doubled the lead 34 seconds later. After a turnover on the kickoff, Ridgik accelerated past the Eagles offsides trap to get a through ball from McSally, angled her body to shield off the defender, and then cut around Floyd to the penalty marker, where she had a wide open goal to deposit the ball. It was the 11th goal of the season for the second team all-ACC selection.
The goals would prove to be more than enough. The Eagles' plan of attack was clearly to play the ball into space behind the Wake defensive line, but adept positioning by the Wake defenders and tight ball pressure from the Wake defensive mid pairing of Annick McBreyer and Sarah Teegarden limited those opportunities, and Morehead never again threatened.
While Wake didn't look great in attack, I'm willing to chalk that up to a bit of rust and some desperate defending by the Eagles defenders. The combination play between Ridgik and the midfielders was reasonably okay, and Wake probably could've added several more. In fact, Owen had a clean breakaway with 20 seconds left but scuffed her shot wide, to groans from the crowd.
The Deacs advance to play #4 seed Penn State in the second round. The game will be Friday at 4 p.m. in Charlottesville, with the winner to face the winner of Virginia-Georgetown in the round of 16 (which will more than likely be Virginia).
- I've said all season that the ACC is a ridiculously strong conference. Now the proof is here: the four #1 seeds in the bracket are Virginia, North Carolina, Virginia Tech, and Florida State. Oh, and the ACC went 7-0-1 in first round games, with Duke advancing on penalties.
- Kudos to the Morehead fans, which I would guess outnumbered the Wake fans in attendance. They had a student section, complete with signs and chants, and waited after the game to let their team know their appreciation for the effort.
- The game was fairly physical, and things got kind of out of hand in the second half. Both Ally Berry and Jackie McSally got tangled up with Eagles players, and Ali Hawksford took a deserved yellow card for just obliterating McBreyer on a late challenge.
- Teegarden has been great all year, and while she didn't have her best game tonight, it's become clear that she's an extremely physical presence on a team that sometimes lacks that dimension. She's not afraid to foul, and she's not afraid to use her body to discomfort opposing players or muscle them off the ball entirely. While there are other Wake players that are capable of playing physically if need be, Teegarden seems to be the player who brings a level of viciousness that Wake otherwise lacks. (I mean this as a compliment, I swear.)
- Play of the game for me happened in the second half. Wake's Kendall Fischlein had moved up with the ball from her right back position, but turned the ball over. As she was getting up, a Morehead player attempted a quick throw-in to capitalize on the available space where Fischlein was supposed to be defending. Ridgik saw this develop, and sprinted back from her striker position into the left back position, caught up with the Morehead player with the ball, and fairly cynically tackled the ball and player out of play. It should've been called a foul by virtue of the tackle being of the takeout variety (Ridgik got ball first, but followed through into the player quite blatantly), and possibly a card, but the ref awarded Wake the throw-in instead. Great head's up play by Riley even if the result was a bit unjust in her favor.
Virginia 5, St. Francis (Pa.) 0
Notre Dame 4, Iowa 1
Virginia Tech 2, UMBC 0
Duke 1, Colorado College 1 (Duke adv. on PKs 4-3)
North Carolina 4, Liberty 0
Boston College 2, Northeastern 0
Florida State 5, South Alabama 0