The Wake Forest men’s soccer team left no doubt in their home opener against NC State. Despite a tied scoreline at the half time interval, the Demon Deacons overwhelmed the Wolfpack with three second half goals, earning themselves a 4-1 victory and moving to 2-0-0 on the season.
After a 3-1 victory in Louisville the week prior, the number 1 ranked Demon Deacons came into this game as the clear favorites against the visiting Wolfpack, who they defeated 3-1 last season in Raleigh. The Deacs were still without the services of senior winger Justin McMaster, junior winger Aristotle Zarris, and redshirt senior defender Michael Deshields, all of whom are recovering from injuries. For the second straight week the Deacs were able to persevere without these key players.
After a tightly contested thirty-six minutes in which both teams showed signs of taking the lead, forward Kyle Holcomb was able to open the scoring off of a pass from midfielder Jake Swallen. Holcomb received the ball between four defenders, turned the ball towards goal, cut inside past Wolfpack defender Jamie Smith, and drove the ball low and beyond the reach of Leon Krapf from just outside of the penalty area, giving the Demon Deacons a one goal lead and Holcomb his first of two goals for the night.
This lead would not carry into the half, however. The Wolfpack were awarded a controversial penalty kick with 1:46 remaining in the half when winger Alex Hernandez was able to get on the end of a pass from Pepe Garcia near the edge of the area when he was pushed from behind by freshman Deacon defender Jahlane Forbes. Referee Carmen Serbio conferred with his assistant and chose to award a penalty kick to NC State despite the foul appearing to occur just outside the area. Although Andrew Pannenberg was able to save A.J. Seals’ penalty attempt, the rebound fell to Alex Bautista, who snuck the ball past Pannenberg at the near post to tie the game leading into the break.
The Deacons came out after the halftime intermission white hot and struck early, however. Takumi Suzuki deflected an NC State pass to Jake Swallen, who laid it off to Kyle Holcomb who showed tremendous close control to dribble beyond Smith, then coolly chipping it over a helpless Krapf to make it 2-1 to the Deacs.
Another chance would soon follow in the 54th minute, as defender Nico Benalcazar found winger Machop Chol with a long ball over the defense, but Krapf charged out of his goal and parried away Chol’s lunging effort. After a flurry of half-chances for Wake including a Holcomb effort that was blocked over the crossbar, NC State nearly tied the game with 36 minutes left. In a nearly deadly counterattack, Pepe Garcia crossed the ball into the penalty area, with defender Cristian Escribano preventing a diving Alex Bautista from scoring once more, followed by Garrison Tubbs blocking Parker Cross’ shot from inside of 10 yards, leaving the Wolfpack defender in disbelief.
The Demon Deacons would make NC State rue this miss, as they scored two goals in quick succession fifteen minutes later. With 20:25 left on the clock, Omar Hernandez found Machop Chol rushing into the eighteen yard box unmarked, giving him a lovely through ball that Chol would slot into the back of the net through the legs of Krapf. Forty seconds later, midfielder Isaiah Parente found winger Calvin Harris with a line-breaking ball down the left flank, allowing Harris to send the ball across to David Wrona, who tapped it into the back of the net to complete the rout.
Generally, the Deacs were in full control of this game, although they struggled through the first 45 minutes against NC State’s dogged pressure. As the pressure died down, though, the Deacons gained more and more control over the game and converted their chances, ultimately dominating the visitors.
Although Kyle Holcomb was clearly the Man of the Match in this instance, as his two beautiful efforts were key to securing the victory for Wake, the whole team was excellent this game. The backline of Escribano, Benalcazar, Tubbs, and Holland Rula held strong throughout the night. Isaiah Parente and Takumi Suzuki look like an incredibly strong midfield pairing for the Deacs, while Harris and Chol look to be extremely productive players on the flanks. Jake Swallen looks like he is capable of replacing the mercurial Bruno Lapa who graduated last year, and Omar Hernandez and David Wrona both look like they can change games as substitutes.
The Demon Deacons will look to improve to 3-0-0 next Saturday at Spry Stadium against UAB, with the kickoff being slated for 7:00 PM.