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COVID Depleted Deacs Fall to UVA in ACC Championship Quarter-Finals

Short five starters and a large portion of their bench due to Coronavirus contact tracing, No. 2 Wake Forest closed out their fall season with a first round loss to UVA in the ACC Tournament

Photo by Andy Mead/ISI Photos/Getty Images

In their final game of the fall season, the Deacs fell short in the most frustrating way possible, only dressing 16 outfield players against UVA and losing 2-0 at Spry after coming into the ACC Tournament as one of the favorites. With this loss the Deacs moved to 7-2-0 and UVA moved to 3-3-1. UVA also moved to 13-39-8 versus Wake all time and will play Clemson in the semifinals of the ACC Championship in search of their 12th title. With a decent crop of seniors and professional prospects on this Wake team, it will be interesting to see who they return for the spring season to make a run at the national title. One thing is for sure, this team will come back after their break pissed and hungry for silverware.

In this game, the Deacs were short 5 regular starters and a multitude of substitutes, losing Cristian Escribano, Garrison Tubbs, Isaiah Parente, Machop Chol, and Kyle Holcomb. They were also still without Justin McMaster and Michael DeShields, both of whom have not played a significant role this season due to injury, but were key players last year. These losses left Wake with 5 outfield players on the bench, including Aristotle Zarris who was likely dressed as a precaution, as he still hasn’t played this season after a serious injury last year.

The game started with little separating the two teams, Wake still sticking to their game plan and playing out of the back and UVA pressing high up the field and trying to create chances through the flanks. They would get their first chance in the 13th minute with a cross from Isaiah Byrd sneaking its way through to Phillip Horton, who laid it off to Joan Gibert Fuertes near the top of the box, forcing a good save from Andrew Pannenberg. Wake got a chance of their own 15 minutes later, with Calvin Harris cutting inside and finding space for a shot that was blazed over the crossbar. Three minutes later, UVA broke the deadlock.

On a ball in from Byrd, Nico Benalcazar was able to get his head to it and pop it up, but it dropped straight onto the head of Cabrel Happi Kamseu inside the six yard box, who nodded it in over Prince Amponsah. Although Benalcazar did clear it away, the ball crossed the line before he was able to get it out, and the goal stood after video review. It’s a play that Andrew Pannenberg would want back, as any ball popped up in the air in the six yard box should belong to the goalkeeper.

UVA had a pair of chances to double their lead with 5 minutes to go in the half, with a cross from Jeremy Verley finding the head of an unmarked Happi Kamseu, but he couldn’t make good contact with the ball. It was gathered by Axel Gunnarsson, who played a one-two with Gibert Fuentes to set up a shot that Pannenberg parried behind. This was the last big chance of the half for either team, leaving Wake with a hill to climb in the second.

Wake nearly started the second half hot, with Koby Carr finding some space down the right wing and flashing a ball across that was cleared just before David Wrona could get a foot to it. Wake looked to be growing back into the game until a mistake from Prince Amponsah in his first college start gave Happi Kamseu his brace, as the Freshman passed it back straight into the feet of the big UVA forward, who calmly dinked it over a helpless Pannenberg to make it 2-0, making Happi Kamseu the first UVA player to have a multi-goal game since Daryl Dike scored a brace against Wake in the College Cup semifinals last season.

At this point, UVA were just looking to close up shop and put most of their players behind the ball, which opened the game up for Wake. David Wrona nearly brought Wake back into the game with 22 minutes to go, but his diving header off of an Omar Hernandez cross came off the back of his head and twisted its way wide. He had an even better chance two minutes later, as some lovely combo play between himself, Jake Swallen, and Calvin Harris gave him a gilted edge chance twelve yards from goal that he hooked wide of the far post.

Takuma Suzuki had a great chance as well on a set piece that worked exactly as designed, with Jake Swallen dropping the ball right onto Suzuki’s head inside the six yard box, but he got too far under it and popped it over the crossbar. UVA should have had another as well, as a deflected ball found its way to Jeremy Verley, who squared it immediately to Happi Kamseu for his hat trick, but his stretching effort from just before the penalty spot was wide of the post. The final chance of the game would fall to Koby Carr on the right side of the box, but his half volley was blocked by a diving Oliver Gerbig. After that UVA saw out the result and moved on in the ACC Tournament, as they always seem to, and ended Wake’s fall season.

Man of the Match overall is an easy pick, but picking one from the Wake team is difficult. I don’t think any player in this game was spectacular for either team, Happi Kamseu was far and away the overall Man of the Match but he just capitalized on some poor mistakes from the Deacs. Jake Swallen and Koby Carr made some chances this game, but ultimately, I would say Omar Hernandez was probably the best player on the field for Wake. He created a couple of good chances and looked relatively sharp throughout what was a disjointed and sloppy game for Wake.

To put it plainly, this is about the worst possible way that this fall window could have ended for the Deacs, as all you can really think about is what could have been. For my money, with a healthy roster, Wake beats this UVA team. But because of the times we’re living in, you just have to deal with things like this. Clemson had an outbreak at the beginning of the season, Pittsburgh cancelled their last two games of the season due to an outbreak, and now Wake has suffered through Coronavirus issues. All that is left to hope for now is the good health of everyone on the team and a run at the national title in the spring.