The Wake Forest Demon Deacons (2-1) got their second win on the bounce this Saturday, eventually seeing off a resolute Cornell Big Red side (0-1) 2-1 in overtime. It was a sloppy performance in parts for the Deacs, never really having the full control of the game and moving the ball with the cutting precision that they like to, allowing Cornell to stick around in the game and even force OT before they would get the result they were looking for. It was a rollercoaster game to be sure, and although it wasn’t a performance the Deacs will want to repeat, it is a result that they can build on.
Early in the game, the Deacs were able to play through the Cornell press and create some good looks for themselves, culminating in a goal in the 10th minute, with Kyle Holcomb receiving the ball in front of the defense and tapping it back inside to Omar Hernandez, who would take it around Connor Drought in the middle to pass the ball outside to Chase Oliver, who would work into the area and set himself up nicely for a shot across goal that would get beyond the cleat of Henry Hylbert and beyond the glove of Brady McSwain to give Oliver his first collegiate goal. Oliver has looked like a much more confident and sharp player this season, really refining the talent you could see in patches last season, and with his hard work he reaped the rewards, as did the Deacs who went up a goal early to settle the nerves.
Cornell would give the Deacs a bit of a scare just following the goal, with Charles Touche taking a Emeka Eneli pass back across and smacking it off of the near post from a tough angle. Wake looked the more dangerous of the two sides throughout the rest of the half, although Cornell’s press was continuing to give the Deacs headaches. From a set piece, Hosei Kijima found himself with a free header inside the area, but he couldn’t quite make the contact that he wanted to on a great delivery. A bigger chance would come moments later, when Jahlane Forbes would send a long ball up for David Wrona, who would work Mateo Rodriguez to get to the ball, but his outside of the foot effort would go wide of the post. Wake would get another chance before the half was out, with Leo Guarino getting the ball at the top of the area and looking to switch to Chase Oliver, but his pass was too high and Oliver had to pop it up with his head and kick it back over his head into the box to keep the play alive, with Jake Swallen winning it between several Cornell defenders and tapping it through to Leo Guarino, who couldn’t get it around the keeper McSwain, who did well to come out and close him down.
The last 14 minutes of the half were mostly the teams just trading possession, with Wake struggling to play through the Cornell press, but Wake’s defense recovering and preventing the Big Red from parlaying their turnovers into chances. It was a half that Wake definitely had the better of, at least in terms of chances, but it felt as if they needed another goal to keep this Cornell team at bay, as they were certainly still in it.
Unfortunately for the Deacs, the second half started much like the first ended, and Cornell looked a lot sharper with their final ball in this one. Cole McNally would make a save early on in the half on a long free kick to the back post that ended up on frame rather than meeting a head from any of the Cornell players. The Big Red would spend the first 15 minutes of the half creating havoc in the Wake box, forcing turnovers inside and a lot of huge blocks and tackles from the Deacon defense as they continued to pile on the pressure, with the biggest chance of this spell coming in the 59th minute, with a Tyler Bagley corner deflecting off of Charles Touche and right into the path of Henry Hylbert, whose lunging effort would rattle the underside of the bar from close range. The game settled back into an uneasy stalemate, with Wake not controlling the game nor Cornell creating any chances to trouble the Deacs. Wake should have wrapped up the game in the 77th minute with a long ball from Prince Amponsah finding David Wrona on the right flank, with his ball across the six yard box looking to have gone under the foot of Roald Mitchell and all the way through to Nico Mancilla at the back post, whose point blank effort would be cleared off the line by Mateo Rodriguez. They would almost immediately be made to pay, as in the 82nd minute Nico Mancilla would turn the ball over in the middle of the field, with Charles Touche winning the second ball in the air back to Emeka Eneli, who would then send him through down the right flank. Touche would cut the ball back to the top of the box, with a dummy from Griffin Garrard allowing it to go all the way across back to Eneli, who would stroke it past Trace Alphin (who came in for an injured Cole McNally) into the side netting of the far post to even up the score at 1 each. It was a tough blow for this Wake team who seemed for all the world to have weathered the storm, but their missed chances came back to bite them.
The momentum would shift back to Wake almost immediately, however, as Charles Touche would lunge across Prince Amponsah’s body with no real intent to win the ball, earning his second yellow card and an early walk back to the showers, turning Cornell’s focus from finding the winner to killing off the game. Wake controlled possession for the rest of the half, holding it in Cornell’s end for the remaining 7 minutes. The Big Red would take another huge blow, as a long ball from Prince Amponsah sent Roald Mitchell in on goal with 30 seconds left, but Henry Hylbert would commit an intentional foul to deny him a chance to win the game for the Deacs, giving the referee no choice but to issue a straight red card for denial of an obvious goal scoring opportunity. This set up the Deacs with a free kick in dangerous territory, but Omar Hernandez’s effort would be blocked by the wall, which set the scene for the overtime to come: the Deacs would have 20 minutes with the ball against 9 men, could they find a goal.
The first overtime period, Cornell remained resolute, with Wake unable to find chances with Cornell set up in a low block in their own box, clinging onto the game for dear life. In the second overtime period however, Wake came out with purpose, and put a bow on the game early on, as 22 seconds into the period, Jahlane Forbes would send a ball across that found its way all the way through to Chase Oliver, who sent it back into the center of the box for Kyle Holcomb to climb the ladder and head into the side netting of the far post to send the fans home happy.
By no means was this the prettiest game Wake has played, but the result was very positive, and we also saw some very positive performances. Hosei Kijima continues to prove that he deserves to play at some position on this team, having an excellent game at right back. Prince Amponsah had a good game defensively and on the ball, springing a few dangerous attacks for Wake and stifling a few more for Cornell. David Wrona continues to be a nuisance for opposing defenses, and Kyle Holcomb, despite a rough night for the first 100 minutes, added another big goal to his list. But the man of the match, for my money, was Chase Oliver. Oliver was exceptional last night, putting in great service from the right, linking up well with the midfield, and, most obviously, scoring the first goal and assisting the winner. Oliver is showing the player that he could be for this team going forward, and I’m sure Bobby Muuss would like to see more of that player going forward, especially in games like this where you needed a bit of individual brilliance.
Next weekend, the Deacs hit the road for the first time this year to open up their ACC schedule, playing in Louisville on Friday against the Cardinals, with kickoff set for 7:30 PM.