It's that time of year where the stakes are that much higher - the 2014 NCAA College Championships are finally here and for the 18th time, Wake Forest men's soccer will be competing to hoist the College Cup trophy on December 14. But to get past the first round, they'll have to defeat UMBC this Thursday - and they're more than ready for that challenge.
Though UMBC (12-5-3) is somewhat of an unknown opponent for the Demon Deacons (10-6-2), as the two squads haven't faced off since the late 1980s, the Retrievers are definitely coming in hot. Winners of the America East Conference, UMBC has gone 8-1-1 in their last ten games with 19 goals in those matches and 35 through the season, making them 38th in the NCAA for scoring offense. Good news for Wake - they currently sit ninth with 37 goals on the season. For the Deacs to come out with a win, they'll need to play their own game and play together. "I think we always want to start fast," senior defender and captain Sam Fink said. "They're a team that scores goals and has been on a bit of a run as of late. We want to get after them early. After that I think it just comes down to us. We're more focused on what we need to do, we need to move the ball, we need to defend and if we can do those things the way that we want to, then I think the rest will take care of itself and we won't have to worry about what UMBC could do to us."
A team filled with as many young players like Wake is bound to have some growing pains - starting three freshmen, two of them in the backline especially, is no easy task. But with the regular season done and dusted, the Deacs are happy with how far they've come and believe that they've learned something over the past two and a half months that will help them now that it's tournament time." I think the number one thing we've learned is just that no matter what happens, and no matter what time of the game it happens at, stick together and we have position reactions," Fink said. "We can overcome any deficits. We've played some of the best teams in the country and if they've scored or if they've gotten good opportunities or PKs or what have you, the times that we've reacted the right way and the times that we've stuck together as a group, we've been great.
"Going into the tournament, we're just going to use that confidence that we've built up through the season through those reactions and through staying together and we're just going to use it as confidence for that. No matter who we face or when we face them, we're confident that by sticking together as a group, we can overcome any challenge."
That challenge is coming up soon - at 7 pm, on Thursday, Nov. 20, the bright lights of the postseason will shine on Spry Stadium as the UMBC Retrievers and the Demon Deacons face off for the first time since 1989. When asked what he would say to someone about why he or she should come to the game, Fink had a clear answer. " I would tell them that they should come to the game on Thursday because you’ll see a group of guys that is willing to do anything for each other and has more heart than you’ve ever seen. Along with that they’ve got the talent to match it, so it’s going to be a beautiful display of a great game."