The Wake Forest Demon Deacons (9-5-1, 3-3-1 ACC) had been on a great run of late, but a tough result on Saturday will put a sour taste back in their mouths. It put an end to a five game winning streak for Wake, one where the Deacs won a pair of difficult ACC games, but now they’ll have to recalibrate with Syracuse coming to Spry in the regular season finale as Wake looks to get their momentum back going into the ACC Tournament. But before thinking about what’s ahead, let’s take a look at the Deacs’ last few performances.
You could not have asked for a better performance from the Wake in this game, as the Deacs dominated the then #5 Hokies (now #13, 9-2-3, 3-2-1 ACC) from whistle to whistle, earning a 3-1 victory at Spry with a scoreline that was generous to the Hokies. For the Deacs, it was a second consecutive conference win, and one that added a fourth consecutive victory onto their winning streak. The VT counter was almost entirely neutralized throughout the game, which can be credited to the great work the Wake backline put in to limit a Hokie attack that has been held under two goals only three times this season. Wake were leagues better than VT, and almost always had their foot on the ball, playing through the Hokie press and moving their mid block to their will. When they didn’t have the ball, they seemed to win every second ball, showing more intensity than VT did throughout.
There weren’t many clear chances in the first half, but the Deacs were firmly in control throughout, prodding at the VT defense while the Hokies were looking to get a clean counterattack going the other way, but couldn’t get on the ball. The first goal came late on in the first half, as a long ball from Prince Amponsah from just inside the halfway line would be claimed by VT defender Sivert Haugli, who seemed to misjudge how much space and time he had, trying to turn the ball outside. Jahlane Forbes, who was making his return to the lineup after an injury, stripped Haugli cleanly and set himself up in on goal, chipping keeper Ben Martino to give the Deacs the lead. Although it was a huge error at the back on the part of the Hokies, Wake were the far better team, and deserved the lead going into the half.
The second half was the best half the Deacs have played in the ACC this season, but it was the Hokies who would find themselves back where they wanted to be after the break. After Kyle Holcomb missed a big opportunity to double the lead for Wake, VT would capitalize going the other way, with Danny Flores winning a second ball from a Prince Amponsah headed clearance and sending through Conor Pugh. Pugh would lash it at the near post, and Trace Alphin couldn’t get near his effort as the Hokies found the equalizer they needed inside of 7 minutes. It felt like the air had come out of the stadium as fans seemed to expect the Hokies to show why they were a top ranked team in the country, as Clemson had in the second half at Spry a couple weeks before. However, the Deacs responded almost immediately, with Hosei Kijima finding himself isolated down the right flank, one on one with Kyle McDowell. He would get to the line and cut it back to get by McDowell, then sending a ball across for Kyle Holcomb, who would make up for his earlier miss and deposit it into the bottom corner from the center of the box, sending Spry into raptures. It flipped the momentum, which briefly seemed as if it was going the other way, and put Wake firmly back into the driver’s seat. For the rest of the half, they were just looking for that third goal to kill the game while the Hokies just tried to repel them.
The Deacs would dominate the rest of the half, creating a slew of chances that they just couldn’t quite finish. There was also some penalty controversy, as what looked to be a very clumsy tackle in the box by a VT defender would prevent Colin Thomas from tapping in a Nico Benalcazar ball across, but no penalty was given. In the end, it didn’t matter. In the 77th minute, as Nico Benalcazar would find Takuma Suzuki in the middle of the field, who would send a slicing ball in behind for Roald Mitchell, who would take a touch to put himself through, and coolly slide it into the bottom corner to put a fork in the Hokies, who by that point in the game deserved to be down by a couple more than two. It was the last goal of the game, and as the final buzzer went off the Deacs erupted with joy on the field after earning a signature win against an elite opponent. Overall, I’d say that the man of the match in this one was Nico Benalcazar, who was so critical in stuffing the Hokie attack, as well as in possession, as he was excellent on the ball, totally neutralizing the VT press and keeping the Deacs’ attacks on schedule.
There is really little to say about this game, as a totally overmatched Greyhounds squad (6-6-2, 4-2 Patriot) came to Spry and were demolished by a Wake team that was firing on all cylinders. Kyle Holcomb did not play in this game for undisclosed reasons, but Wake still saw some elite striker play, with Roald Mitchell opening up the scoring in the 12th minute when Roald Mitchell settled a ball from Holland Rula and hammered it goalward from the top of the box, with the ball nestling into the top corner. The second goal came in the 43rd minute, as a slick ball in behind for Julian Kennedy would allow Kennedy to place it into the bottom corner of the far post on his left foot to score his first collegiate goal and Wake’s second of the evening. The Deacs would go into the half up a pair, and, by the way things were going, it sure felt like more goals were on the way.
As it turned out, there were many more goals to be had, as an early cutback from Colin Thomas to Omar Hernandez increased the Demon Deacon lead to three as Hernandez ripped it into the top corner. Colin Thomas’ first collegiate goal would come next, as Takuma Suzuki would send him in down the left flank, with the second year winger scoring his first collegiate goal on a shot across goal on his left foot that Chase Vosvick got a big piece of, but couldn’t push wide. Colin Thomas would pick up another assist on the fifth goal, as he’d pick up a loose ball from his own ball across to Chase Oliver and cut it back to Julian Kennedy, who would rip it into the top corner from the top of the box. He’d get his hat trick mere moments later, as a long slicing ball from Hosei Kijima at the left back spot just inside the Greyhound half would send him in to lob it over Vosvick to register the first hat trick by a Wake player since Ugo Okoli in 2012. Oscar Sears would get in on the action to tie a bow on the game, getting the ball out wide from Jahlane Forbes and cutting it back to the top of the box, where he would lash it on the ground into the far bottom corner beyond the reach of substitute keeper Alex Bobocea to make it a lucky 7-0 for the Deacs.
This is the kind of performances that should be expected of Wake in these non-conference games. Although this volume of scoring is uncommon and unreasonable to expect the level of dominance displayed should be the expectation. It was an expected three points that the Deacs earned in dominant fashion, and a game that had a clear man of the match. Julian Kennedy had struggled in much of his time on the field this season, trying to adapt to the college game after time with semi-professional and academy players in USL League One with Orlando City B, but in this game it all clicked. His hold up was great, finishing was sharp, and he was very active throughout the game. It was the kind of performance the Deacs hope to see him put in going forward.
After those pair of positive performances, Wake put out a deflating one at BC, giving them their second win against Wake in their last three meetings. Wake were not sharp enough in this game, not turning in a bad performance, but Boston College took a yard for every inch Wake gave them, and turned it into three goals and three points. The scoring started in the 19th minute for the Eagles off of a throw in that Mike Suski would dribble inside. He would look to take the ball into the box, shrugging off a challenge by Prince Amponsah and lashing it at the near post and beyond Trace Alphin to give the Eagles the lead. BC put Wake’s defense under some pressure on the counter attack, but the Deacs seemed to be growing back into the game and getting the better of the chances when, with only a minute and a half left in the first half, Stefan Sigurdarson would get by Prince Amponsah to enter the area, and then was taken down clumsily in the area by Amponsah to give the Eagles a penalty kick. Sigurdarson would put it away, and the Eagles would go into the half up a pair.
Wake would start the second half brightly, however, and would get a few good chances before they found a goal to claw themselves back into the game, with Roald Mitchell getting loose up the right flank in the 62nd minute, putting one across to Kyle Holcomb, who tapped it into a wide open goal from close range. However, only four minutes later, Aidan Farwell would give the ball inside to Mike Suski, who would take the ball back into the center, ripping one on the ground from the top of the box, sneaking it between Garrison Tubbs and Prince Amponsah and into the back of the net while Trace Alphin could only watch. It was the backbreaker for the Deacs, although they did have a late push to equalize. Jake Swallen deposited an 87th minute penalty after a clumsy Wil Jacques challenge from behind on Roald Mitchell to bring the Deacs a step closer, but they ran out of time, and the Eagles would claim their second win in a row, both in the ACC.
Man of the match in this one is an easy pick, as Mike Suski was absolutely incredible throughout this game, and scored the two goals that took the Eagles over the top. It was a very disappointing result for the Deacs, who were one of the hottest teams in the country before this deflating game. Although the had some chances and the better of the run of play, the Eagles looked dangerous almost every time they got forward, and Wake cannot be happy with that considering that this team had only scored 3 goals total in their last 6 games. They’ll have an opportunity to get going back in the right direction with an ACC matchup to close out the regular season this weekend.
Friday night the Deacs will return to action before ACC Tournament play, as they’ll take on the Syracuse Orange at 7:00.