The Wake Forest Demon Deacons women’s soccer team (9-6-3, 3-6-1 ACC) got their golden ticket last week, being invited to the NCAA Tournament after a very up and down season. They’ll have to travel for their first matchup, taking on the South Carolina Gamecocks (13-3-5, 8-3-2 SEC) in Columbia. This is a story of two teams trending in opposite directions, with the Deacs having gone winless in their final four games and the Cocks going undefeated in their previous six games. Wake has come close to getting a big win over a ranked opponent several times this season, and they’ll be hoping to get one here on the biggest stage.
USC hovered around the top five or ten of the United Soccer Coaches Poll at the beginning of the year until a loss to Arkansas on September 25th bumped them down into the 20s. Since then, the Cocks have been borderline unbeatable, going 7-1-2 with wins over a ranked Tennessee team and against Alabama, a one seed in the NCAA Tournament, in the SEC championship game. They’ve been one of the more consistent programs in the country, having posted double digit victories in every season since the start of the 2013 campaign. This season, they picked up their second SEC title in the last four years, and with no runaway favorite for the national title, they’ll be hoping to make a run at the biggest prize in the sport. The Cocks’ strength is in their backline, a unit that has allowed only 11 goals in 21 games and has posted 13 shutouts thus far. Wake will need to shake off their attacking struggles if they’re going to find a win in this one.
Wake will need to be at the absolute top of their game tonight if they are going to find a win in this one and keep their season alive. They’ve played big teams tight this season, losing all four of their meetings to top ten teams this year by a combined four goals. The Deacs’ strength also lies in their backline, as they’ve only allowed 14 goals this season in 18 games and have posted shutouts in 9 games. On the other end of the field, things have been a bit more tricky. Wake has scored 26 goals this season, and only 11 in their previous 10, and they haven’t scored multiple goals in a game since October 9th. Tonight’s game feels like one that could be a defensive struggle that will be decided by one big moment in the midst of a stalemate. Wake have found themselves on the wrong end of a few of those this season, but they’ll be hoping that this game they can find that one moment of brilliance that has eluded them.
Kickoff is set for 6:00 in Columbia, and the game will be broadcast on ESPN+.