The Wake Forest Demon Deacons (11-2, 3-2) returned to winning ways against the Miami Hurricanes (4-7, 1-4), claiming a 2-1 victory in double overtime on Thursday night. It was a game the Deacs should have put to bed in regulation with all of the chances they had, but they left themselves open to a stunning late equalizer from the Canes that would send it to overtime. In the first half, Wake was the far better side and gave up next to nothing, while in the second Miami took advantage of Wake’s apparent exhaustion and controlled the flow of the game. Miami looked much better than the Deacs in the first overtime period, but Wake survived and walked off the game in the opening seconds of double overtime with a big attacking push from kickoff. It was a win the Deacs needed to pick up to stay on track for NCAA and ACC Tournament appearances this season, especially after losing at Louisville last week. Performance wise, it wasn’t the Deacs’ best outing this year, but the result is always the most important thing, and Wake got the result they needed.
In the first half, the Deacs started off hot, and found a goal inside of three minutes when Jenna Menta received a one touch layoff from Hulda Arnarsdottir just inside her own half and went on an incredible run. Menta split Gabriela Rusek and Annie Blair at the fifty to set herself up in a one on one with defender Emma Tucker, who didn’t close down her down as she set up a shot on her right foot that she would lash across goal and beyond Melissa Dagenais to get the Deacs off and running. The Deacs should have doubled the lead in the 8th minute, as Nikayla Small sent in a killer ball to Menta on the far right side of the area, with the Georgetown transfer cutting it back to Hulda Arnarsdottir, whose glancing effort from inside the six was saved by the trailing leg of Dagenais and then eventually cleared after a Sofia Rossi rebound.
The Deacs’ dominance in this half was more centered on their total suffocation of the Hurricanes throughout more so than their own chance creation, as they had few other clear cut chances in the first 45. Miami didn’t create any clear cut chances in the half at all, but did put the Wake goal under pressure in the 40th minute, as Emma Tucker put a great ball up the left flank to Katerina Molina, who looked to cut it back from the far side of the area, but Emily Morris was able to come across and get it away from danger. This wasn’t Morris’ last big action of the half, as she would come up from her left back spot to take a free kick from a dangerous position, just outside of the box from slightly to the right of the goal. Morris would look to put her laces through it toward the keeper’s side, but her effort would bend away from goal and go out of play. The half would end 1-0 in favor of the Demon Deacons, with the game firmly in their control.
In the second half, however, Miami seemed to find a different gear and found their way into the game when it seemed as if they were well out of it. In the 48th minute, the Canes came forward dangerously, with a Gabriela Rusek ball through the Wake defense finding Maria Jakobsdottir on the right flank, who put a good ball into the box for Jackie Koerwitz. She couldn’t quite make good contact with the ball from just outside the six yard box on the volley, however, allowing Wake to regroup. Although Miami did seem to have the better of the play, Wake would create the better of the chances when they got onto the ball, with one of the bigger opportunities coming to Giovanna DeMarco. She would receive the ball at the top of the area from a Hulda Arnarsdottir cutback, with her initial effort being blocked by Gabriela Rusek, and her follow up effort being put high and wide of the goal from just inside the box.
With Wake still so dangerous going forward in spite of Miami’s renewed vigor, it seemed as if they would score a second goal and put the game away at any moment, and had the perfect opportunity to do so in the 64th minute. Sophie Fairlcoth would be chopped down clumsily on the left side of the area by Delaney Brown to give the Deacs a penalty kick, and one that Faircloth would step up to take. However, she would see her penalty saved by Melissa Dagenais, keeping Miami in the game, and almost entirely turning the momentum. Wake looked absolutely exhausted after the penalty, and Miami were playing with even more hunger than they were prior. An awkward miscommunication between Malaika Meena and Kristin Johnson in the 67th minute would result in Taylor Shell taking the ball inside Wake’s area and ripping a shot from a wide angle, rattling the crossbar. She would rattle two posts only four minutes later, as she would get the ball out wide off of a ricochet from a corner she had just taken, then playing a wayward cross into the box, but it would go toward the Wake goal, smacking off of the underside of the crossbar and the base of the post before it could be cleared.
Wake would have their chances to put this one away, however. In the 79th minute, Hulda Arnarsdottir would put through a slicing ball to Carrie McIntire to send her in on goal totally alone with Dagenais, but she would flub her left footed effort, sending it high and wide of the goal. Shayla Smart would get a pair of chances to wrap things up, with the first coming in the 82nd minute, as she would get a ball out wide from Ryanne Brown that would put her one on one with Hallie Salas. Smart got inside of her, and would jump over her clumsy challenge to rip a shot between the legs of Dagenais, who got just enough to slow it down and claim it as it trickled behind her. Smart decided to be honest and have a shot on goal here, but if she would have gone down it almost certainly would have been another penalty for Wake. She had another huge chance in the 83rd minute, as Hulda Arnarsdottir would do some great work to settle a cross from Jenna Menta, and send Smart in on goal from almost the same spot as her first chance. It would be the same result, as she would try to put her laces through this shot rather than placing it, ripping it right at Dagenais’ chest, with the Quebec native parrying it away.
Wake would go on to rue these misses in the 88th minute, as a sloppy defensive series by the Deacs seemed to be cleaned up well enough, with Emma Tucker gathering the ball 30 yards from goal after a half clearance from Wake with no dangerous options around her. However, Tucker would take a step to set up a shot on her right foot, with Mia Raben left with no recourse but to flail at the ball as it flew over her and into the side netting to tie up the game. It was a beautiful goal for Miami, who had found a way to stick around in this game and who now had a reward for their hard work. As the final buzzer sounded, the Hurricanes had all the momentum against an exhausted Wake team, and could get their first ever win in Winston-Salem if they could find a goal in overtime.
Miami clearly had better energy in the first overtime period, and were the better of the two teams. Wake were mostly surviving during these ten minutes, but as the time went on they started to grow back into the game, as Miami were not offering much danger going forward despite their control of the game. Neither team did much of anything in those ten minutes, however, and the game would need to be decided in a second overtime. The Deacs kicked off, and would stage an all out assault straight away, with Nikayla Small putting a ball through on the outside to Jenna Menta, who would take a lovely touch to get past Emma Tucker and send a looping ball in from the endline. Hulda Arnarsdottir flicked the ball goalwards and hit the top of the crossbar, with the rebound ricocheting out to Malaika Meena, who saw her effort cleared off the line. It deflected back out to Menta, who looked to cut it back to Small but the ball was cleared only out as far as Ryanne Brown. Brown would settle the ball and send it in to Sofia Rossi, who found herself between defenders, and would head it down into the bottom corner to walk it off for the Deacs, who picked up their third ACC win of the season.
It wasn’t a pretty performance, but it was a gutsy win for the Deacs, and, in my opinion, the biggest contributor to this result was Jenna Menta. Menta is in the midst of her best string of games in a Wake Forest jersey, with the Georgetown transfer showing why she was Big East Offensive Player of the Year last season. This game, I think she was Wake’s best attacking player, setting up her teammates in dangerous spots constantly, creating havoc out wide, and adding a goal of her own. We also saw another great game from Nikayla Small, who has been the Deacs’ best player this season in my opinion, with the Canadian running the midfield for Wake. The Deacs also got some good performances from Hulda Arnarsdottir, Ryanne Brown (both at right back and in the middle), and of course the golden goal scorer Sofia Rossi, all of whom had great moments in this game. Although it was a good result the Deacs will need to recover and refocus, as they have one of their biggest games of the season coming up this weekend.
The Deacs return to action Sunday at 5:00, as they host the #17 Virginia Tech Hokies in a huge game for their tournament hopes.