The Wake Forest Demon Deacons (4-4-1) will look to put an end to a three game winless streak tonight as they host the William & Mary Tribe (3-4) of the CAA at Spry. It’s a game where the Deacs have little to gain from a resume perspective but a lot more to lose in that vein. A win here can at least stop the rot heading into a huge road clash in Chapel Hill, but they can’t afford to overlook the Tribe, who could very well stun the Deacs as Liberty did last Tuesday, turning their own season around. With the Deacs coming off of a poor performance against Clemson, they’ll need to use that game as motivation and not sink further into the depths they’re trying to escape from. A win here is critical to laying the foundations of a season turnaround and getting the momentum moving in the right direction.
Wake has dominated the all time series with the Tribe, as they have with most teams, holding an 8-1 mark over them and a 6-0 mark at home, most recently whipping them 5-0 in the 2019 season at Spry. As for this year, The Deacs started this season as a top 10 team nationally and a top 3 team in the ACC and have fallen a great distance from those heights, while the Tribe have settled into just about where they were supposed to be, as William & Mary were picked to finish 5th out of 9 in the CAA. They are coming off of a 1-0 victory against the College of Charleston, who were picked to finish last in the conference. The Tribe have finished below .500 every year since 2017, when they won the CAA title for the eighth time in their history and second time under head coach Chris Norris, who has been a part of the program as a player, assistant, and head coach for 31 years, spending his last 18 as the man in charge. He has a 146-127-43 record as the head coach, and has led his team 4 NCAA tournaments, including a Sweet Sixteen appearance in 2010 that saw the Tribe finish as the #9 team in the country. Now coming off of a 2-4 COVID season and having not finished at or above .500 since 2017, he still has his team in the midst of a rebuild. A win for his squad at Spry would be huge to changing things inside his program, and the Deacs will need to ensure that doesn’t happen.
Tactically, William & Mary play a pretty standard 4-3-3 with 2 deeper midfielders, preferring to hold onto possession, play out of the back, and set up to press out wide, looking to win second balls at every opportunity by putting numbers around the ball in tight spaces. They put a lot of numbers forward, with the midfielder at the top of the midfield joining the attack. This team has significant flaws, however, and struggle mightily with the press, and can be very sloppy on the ball. Defensively, they look very weak, especially out wide, where they give up a lot of opportunities to put balls in the box that their CBs have significant trouble with, and have seen some rough moments from their keeper as well, although he is certainly not to blame for all of their defensive woes. If Wake’s press shows up like it did against Pitt, they will run the Tribe off the field, and with Wake’s propensity to work the ball out wide for cutbacks, which the Tribe have struggled with, they should have a lot of attacking joy, unless they settle into a low block and try to steal a result.
Ones to Watch
William & Mary
#9 Diba Nwegbo (FW): Nwegbo leads this William & Mary team in goals and assists, and for good reason. Playing both out wide and at center forward, Nwegbo can hold the ball up well, get in behind, and use his changes of speed to get past defenders. He has already registered a goal against an ACC opponent this year, scoring against Virginia Tech in what was ultimately a 3-2 win for the Hokies. He is the main danger man in this side, and if the Tribe are going to get anything going this game it will likely be through him.
#6 Alfredo Bozalongo (CM): Bozalongo is the man who keeps things ticking for the Tribe, the player to give the ball to and break the team out of the press. He is slick on the ball, can stand up to physicality, and is a good passer. He drops deep into the midfield to get the ball and alleviate pressure on the CBs, but also progresses the ball himself to create danger up the field. He’s registered 2 assists this season, and will likely be counted on to keep William & Mary from losing their composure in this game, as well as creating things going forward to maybe steal points for them.
#9 Roald Mitchell (CF): Mitchell has received limited minutes this season, splitting time not only with Kyle Holcomb but also with Julian Kennedy, but last game he showed his value to the team. A strong, quick forward with deceptively good feet for a man of his stature, Mitchell looked dangerous even as the Deacs didn’t against Clemson, winning a first half penalty to give the Deacs their lone goal, and doing some good things up front by himself in the second. If he gets more time this game, which I think he should based on how he has played, he can be a real danger to register his first college goal.
#25 Chase Oliver (W): William & Mary are a team that struggle mightily to defend out wide, and your most dangerous wide player is clearly Chase Oliver. Although Oliver has primarily come off the bench this season to run at tired legs, his impact has been incredible, scoring 3 and setting up 2 to tie the team lead for goals and assists. He is quick, excellent in one-on-one situations, can deliver a good ball and even put them on goal himself. Against a team that struggles in those spots, I think Oliver can have a great night.
Kickoff is set for 7:00.