The Wake Forest Demon Deacons women’s soccer team (7-0) continued to dominate its non-conference schedule, defeating the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (2-2-1) by a score of 5-0. The press was again key for Wake, as they were able to put the pressure on the Coastal back line, as well as winning the majority of their midfield battles. Some crisp finishing, great passing, and wonder goals put Wake Forest over the top in this one, with the Deacs looking a lot better in front of goal than they did at App State over the weekend. With the momentum Wake has, there are plenty of reasons to look forward to the ACC slate starting up next week.
It didn’t take long for Wake to impose their will on the Chanticleers, with a corner earned after a bit of a scramble in the box and long shot by Nikayla Small inside of the first 5 minutes leading to the first goal of the game, with Sophie Faircloth’s right footed delivery from the far corner going over the head of Coastal keepr Ky Hudson, off the post and into the back of the net without intervention to give the Deacons an early lead and Faircloth her second olimpico at the college level, with the other coming against Carolina last season on her left foot, making it a truly mind-boggling feat. The second followed only a minute or so after, with Sofia Rossi getting on the end of a Ryan Brown cross, putting it on her chest to turn the defender Mackenzie Cherry, and rolling it past Hudson to put the Deacs firmly in the driver’s seat.
The game would calm down a bit for a the next 20-25 minutes after that, although Wake would have a couple of chances off of set pieces to add a third, with Zara Chavoshi and Ryanne Brown getting good looks from headers that they just couldn’t direct on frame. Coastal would have an opportunity to get back into the game off of a cutback to Sarah Allen, who saw her effort blocked by Faircloth, with the rebound being put over the crossbar by Lauren Denning under pressure from Kristin Johnson. Wake had another good chance to add a third during this with a ball back from the endline from Nikayla Small finding Kyla Ochoa, who would rattle the pipe with her effort.
Wake would start to rotate in their depth players, and their impact was felt almost immediately on the energy of the game. Jenna Menta would take the ball inside from the right flank, cutting it back to the open space at the top of the box, where Ashley Frank would settle the ball and rip it across her body, nestling into the back of the net just over the outstretched arm of Hudson. The game would settle down a bit again after that going into the half, with Emily Morris getting a half chance in behind the Coastal defense off of a tremendous ball from Lauren Tangney, but she could only put her effort into the hands of Ky Hudson. That was the final moment of note in what was another dominant half for the Demon Deacons, who looked to be well on their way to their seventh win of the year.
The starters would return to the field in the second half, and early on almost saw their shutout streak end, with Zara Chavoshi putting a careless pass back into the center of her own box, but Loranna Auston would rattle her shot off of the far post and out with no one around her, sealing Coastal’s fate in this one, as they would not get a better chance than that one. Wake didn’t create all that much with the starters on the field to start the second half, but were the more dangerous of the two teams, and certainly kept their foot on the throat of Coastal, leading to a full lineup change with about 30 minutes left in the game, which injected a different energy into the matchup. Soon after the full shift, Wake would find their fourth goal, with a lovely one touch pass from Ashley Frank going out wide to Jenna Menta, who struck a beautiful ball on the ground across to Carrie McIntire, who made no mistake from inside of six yards, tucking it past Hudson to get her first goal of the season and second goal at the college level. The fifth goal wasn’t far behind, with Laurel Ansbrow finding Ashley Frank with a line breaking ball through the middle of the field, with Frank putting a lovely ball in behind on the left flank for Jenna Menta, who would make no mistake in front of goal, tucking it past Ky Hudson for her third goal as a Demon Deacon after joining Wake from Georgetown. Wake would continue to pile on the pressure, creating a couple of good looks near the end of the game that ultimately would come to nothing. The buzzer sounded, and Wake moved to 7-0 on the season with another convincing victory.
I was able to speak with head coach Tony Da Luz after the game, and asked him about the performance of his backline so far this season and maintaining the shutout streak, and he quite succinctly summed up how impressed he has been with his defensive group: “We minimize our opponents’ chances. When they need to defend they do, and they’re pretty good as a unit, they have a good relationship with the goalkeeper, and the passing has been pretty exceptional as well. We were able to keep the ball; you’re opponent can’t score when you have the ball. I’m more and more impressed every game.”
I also asked about the importance getting Wake’s depth players experience in games like these: “First of all, for morale it’s important; these kind of games are great for team morale. We’re always telling the starters that you’re playing for your team, so we want to try score two or three goals to get in a comfortable where we can have some freedom to bring kids in off the bench, and fortunately tonight that second team came in and I thought they did a fantastic job and really dominated. In the ACC, in these two game weekends as we head into the league, having depth on a Thursday-Sunday it is absolutely critical to have quality players being able to come into the game and make a difference. It’s good for us; we’re heading in a great direction.”
Coach Da Luz also had glowing reviews of his team’s press and the way they’ve started games this year: “The best thing for us is that every game we’ve had positive starts. We’ve been really impressive scoring one or two early goals and putting our opponents under some pressure, and kind of changing their tactics so that they have to come out a little bit more. That was probably the best start over the last 4 games that we’ve had, so the mentality is there and they want to play with the lead, and that’s really important in the ACC.”
Set pieces were also a huge part of the team’s preparation for this game, which paid off with the great looks they had from set pieces as well as the olimpico Sophie Faircloth put in: “[Set pieces] were a huge point for the game tonight, and we thought it could be the separator for us. Executing defensively on set pieces was important because we thought that would be an opportunity for them to score goals, and attacking wise we really wanted to make sure we executed. So for Soph[ie Faircloth] to start the game with one of those is just unbelievable, and like we’ve said she’s done it before, last year against UNC.”
Lastly, I asked him about the importance of carrying this momentum into ACC play: “It’s huge. The confidence that you need to play in our league is critical, so hopefully Sunday we’ll carry it on to a tough Maryland game, and then be able to carry a lot of confidence into the ACC, because every game is just absolutely grueling.”
I was also able to speak with Sophie Faircloth about her performance this game and her approach when going into games: “I think we’ve had a lot of good momentum this season so our focus each game is to come out strong and put these teams away early, and I think we came out and had two goals within the first ten minutes, so that’s what we need going into these non-conference games to get good energy going into ACC play. I think we came out and did that today, which was good.”
I had to ask if she was thinking about scoring a goal from that corner that wound up in the net, and this was her response: “It’s always a thought of mine, and they send two people out so we didn’t go for the short option, and I had a lot of talk in my film about corners in the last game, so I changed my angle this time, and once I hit it, it’s one of those things you kind of know.”
Sophie also talked about what has changed in the locker room this season to help the team get out to such a hot start: “Well we brought in a ton of new freshmen, and bringing them into practice and making sure they know the standards, and they’ve come in super strong and played a really important role for us. Each game we keep getting better and better and our chemistry keeps getting better and better, so we keep building from game to game and it’s only positive from here.”
I also wanted to get her thoughts about the ACC slate starting up next week, and she had this to say about the team’s mentality going into next week: “We’re definitely feeling confident, but we know that ACC play is going to be a lot harder than any of the teams we’ve faced so far, so we can’t be overconfident going into these games, but it’s definitely a good base to have.”
To give my final take on the game, I would say the player of the match in this game was Ashley Frank, who was involved in 3 of the 5 goals and looked very sharp after coming on in the first and second halves. I also want to give special mentions to Jenna Menta, Sophie Faircloth, Nikayla Small, and Sofia Rossi, who were all excellent in this game as well and helped ensure Wake would get the three points. Wake will return to action at 1:00 on Sunday against the Maryland Terrapins.