This past week, the No. 24 Wake Forest Demon Deacons women’s soccer team remained undefeated, picking up a pair of wins in their first two road games to move to 5-0-1 on the season. First, they made the trip up I-74 to High Point (0-4-2) and demolished the Panthers in what was their largest margin of victory this season, and also their fourth shutout of the season. They followed this game up with a gritty win in Rochester, Michigan, earning their fifth shutout of the season over the Oakland Golden Grizzlies (3-1-2) in a 1-0 contest. These pair of victories alongside Wake’s larger body of work this year earned them some votes this week, as for the first time this season they moved into the rankings after starting out in the “receiving votes” category in the preseason poll. It’s only the third week they’ve spent in the poll in the last two years, and it is their highest ranking since they came in at 23 in the 2019 preseason poll. They’ll look to keep their momentum going with a pair of games in Maryland this week, first visiting College Park to take on the Terps, then heading over to Baltimore to face Loyola Maryland. They’re an important pair of games for the Deacs, but before looking ahead to those, let’s look back at the Deacs’ two wins last week.
Wake opened up a five game road trip in the Triad, heading up to face a High Point team that was struggling, with the Panthers notching a pair of draws to open their season, then falling in consecutive games in shutout fashion. The Deacs were not in a merciful mood, jumping on the Panthers fairly early in this one. The press was suffocating High Point, and they just couldn’t put together an attack when they finally did get out of their own end. The sole worry for Wake was that they’d run out of gas before they could find a goal. That worry was put to rest in the 21st minute, when Emily Morris unleashed a shot from distance that smacked the underside of the crossbar and crossed the line to put the Deacs up. The Deacs continued to push to put the game out of reach, and a second goal would follow ten minutes later, with Caiya Hanks bombing into the area and cutting a ball back to Alex Wood from the endline, with the freshman making no mistake, taking the shot first time and doubling Wake’s lead, scoring her team leading third goal of the season. Only 32 seconds later, the Deacs turned this one into a rout, as Giovanna DeMarco sent a long ball over the top to Caiya Hanks, who had made an inch perfect run to get in behind. Hanks cut it back beyond a defender and onto her right foot, then lashing it at the near post for her first collegiate goal and Wake’s third of the day. High Point’s hope at a statement win had very quickly turned into a nightmare, and the Deacs continued to push for more. However, they wouldn’t get one before half, and the Panthers would finally get a respite from the onslaught and a chance to regroup.
Coming out of the half, Wake continued to dominate the game, but they couldn’t quite find another early on. They would find a fourth eventually, though, as Kristi Vierra was ripped down in the area after a set piece in the 66th minute, giving the Deacs a penalty kick. Vierra and Zara Chavoshi had a discussion about it on the penalty spot, but Chavoshi would wind up being the penalty taker, and she would deposit it over the keeper right down the middle to register her first collegiate goal. After another small dead period, Wake would get another in the 79th minute, with Laine DeNatale sending an incisive ball through down the left flank for fellow freshman Taryn Chance, who would carry the ball towards goal unchallenged and slide it in at the near post for goal number five. Liv Stowell tacked on another in the 80th minute, as she received a ball out wide from Taryn Chance, cut it inside, beat two defenders and curled it into the back of the net along the ground for her second goal of the season. Soon after, Wake punctuated the game with a seventh goal in the 85th minute, as Taryn Chance found a channel down the left side and squared it across goal toward Olivia Duvall. High Point defender Gracen Houck got a touch on it, but she deflected it right at her own goal. Duvall poked it in before it could cross the line on its own, getting her first collegiate goal in the process, the fourth Wake player to do so in this game. It was a long 90 minutes, especially for the Panthers, and it finally came to an end as the buzzer sounded soon after this seventh goal. With this win, the Deacs moved to 4-0-1 on the season in dominant fashion.
It’s hard to pick out a player of the match in a game like this, one where so many players contributed to a dominant result. 27 players played for Wake in this game, with the only outfield players to register more than 50 minutes being Allie Schmidt, Zara Chavoshi, and Laurel Ansbrow. As a result, a slew of players put in strong shifts in limited minutes. It was another strong performance from Emily Morris, who continues to be an impressive box to box midfielder for Wake this season. Caiya Hanks had probably her best game of the season, getting loose often on that left side, scoring one and setting one up. But as tight as it was, I would say the player of this game was Taryn Chance. Chance only logged 27 minutes in this game, but they were 27 very impactful minutes, as she set up Liv Stowell for her goal, sent the dangerous ball across that Olivia Duvall would deposit, and netted a goal of her own. She just kept finding pockets of space for herself and ways to move the defense around, enough so to lead directly to three goals. While I have singled out Chance here, it was an immense team performance from Wake. There isn’t enough space in this article to do much else than talk about the goals in this one, but Wake was able to dominate High Point with their first and second elevens, and a few more players for that matter. To keep that level of performance throughout a game with entirely different teams at the first and 90th minutes was very impressive.
The Deacs continued their road trip in Michigan, traveling to face Horizon League favorites Oakland University. This looked like it would be one of the toughest games on Wake’s non conference schedule, and the Golden Grizzlies were as advertised. It was a slog throughout, with neither team able to get that much going forward. The midfield was a swamp; the ball just seemed to get stuck there constantly. Wake’s press was preventing Oakland from stringing together any productive passing sequences, but it wasn’t winning them the ball high up the field. Oakland’s backline was resolute, not allowing much of anything to the Deacs in the run of play. The two sides combined for a paltry five shots in the first half, but the Deacs did account for four of those. Wake was getting the better of the chances, but they didn’t have any excellent goal-scoring chances that should have put them on top. Overall, it was a fairly even half with Wake playing with ever so slightly more ambition and promise than Oakland.
The second half was much of the same, with neither team able to pull ahead of the other. This game seemed destined to be a draw that, really, Wake would be somewhat disappointed with. Although it may have been a fair result, and Oakland may turn out to be a tournament team, most teams that end up competing in the ACC find a way to win a game like this. Eventually, though, the Deacs would do just that. The Deacs had slowly begun to ramp up the pressure on the Golden Grizzlies, and were really looking threatening. Their press was forcing turnovers high up the field, and they were finding space that they hadn’t been earlier in the game. This culminated in the 78th minute, when Wake won a loose ball on the left flank near midfield. The ball came back to Kristin Johnson, who booted it forward to Alex Wood. Wood was able to put the ball down with a deft touch and took it away from goal. Then she chopped the ball back between three defenders, then taking the space in front of her 25 yards from goal. She then sent the ball through to Liv Stowell with the help of a dummy from Giovanna DeMarco. Stowell would make no mistake, sending her third goal of the season into the side netting just inside the post to give Wake a late lead. It was a lead that they would keep, seeing out this game in professional fashion to earn their fifth victory and issue Oakland their first loss of the season.
This was a different kind of team performance for Wake, a much more gritty, resolute one than their romp in High Point. It was hardly thorough, but this is the kind of game that good teams find a way to win through sheer willpower. And Wake certainly showed some heart and some will in this one. There were plenty of solid individual performances that were worthy of praise. Zara Chavoshi and Laurel Ansbrow were once again very sharp, and Kristin Johnson, while she didn’t have the cleanest game, came up with big moments when she needed to. Giovanna DeMarco put in a captain’s effort in the middle, looking strong at the base of the three as a destroyer, but also when moving the ball. Liv Stowell had an opportunistic performance, scoring the one big chance that she got. Alex Wood, however, is my player of the match for this game. When Wake got anything going in their attack, it felt as if Wood was involved. She was good on the ball, great in the press, and really made the winning goal happen out of thin air on a long ball from her left back. While it wasn’t Wake’s prettiest outing, the only thing that matters is which column the game goes in, and the Deacs will be thrilled to have picked up another win against a tournament quality team.
Tonight, the Deacs return to action at 7:00 at Ludwig Field in College Park, facing their third power conference foe of the season in the Maryland Terrapins (1-0-4). The Terps have had, if nothing else, an incredibly intriguing start to their season, as they drew their first four games, all by a score of 1-1. One of these draws was against the Georgetown Hoyas, one of the two teams (Washington) tied in the rankings at 24 with Wake. The Hoyas began the season ranked at 19 and were as high as 11. Maryland won their first game of the season on Sunday, defeating George Mason 3-0 in College Park. Many in Maryland are hoping this is the start of a long awaited turnaround for the program, which has not won a Big Ten game in two years and hasn’t posted a season with a .500 win percentage since 2012. It’s been tough sailing for the Terps since joining the Big Ten in 2014, as they’ve posted a 39-79-30 record since then, including a horrific 13-60-16 record in conference. Wake did have some trouble with the Terps last season, as they had to hold onto a 1-0 lead deep into the second half from a first half Lauren Tangney goal before Jenna Menta put the game to bed in the 87th minute. Maryland had some good moments in that game, and really made the Deacs work for the result, so the Deacs will certainly have to take this game seriously, especially considering that the Terps have taken a result from a ranked team already this season. It’s a new era for Maryland under longtime Rutgers assistant Meghan Ryan Nemzer, and they’ll be hoping to keep her undefeated start going against another ranked team.
Wake will stay in Maryland for their next game, heading to the Ridley Athletic Complex in Baltimore to take on the Greyhounds of Loyola Maryland. Loyola is another team that Wake played last season, with the Deacs easing to a 3-0 victory in Winston-Salem over the Greyhounds on the back of a Shayla Smart hat trick. Loyola is off to a 2-3-1 start to their season, with wins over Rice and Youngstown State, losses to No. 5 UVA, Drexel, and Columbia, and a draw to Kent State. It’s tough to say where the programs they’ve beaten will end up this season, with Rice being of special interest, as they are coming off of a 10-5-3 season but are off to a tough 2-4 start now. But ultimately, they’re a team that hasn’t started too badly, and will be looking for a momentum shift going into conference play. A ranked win would do just that for a program that has been in the mix in the Patriot League in the last few years, but still has not won a conference title and gone to the NCAA Tournament since winning the MAAC in 2012. They’re led by Joe Mallia, the winningest coach in the history of the program, who is now in his second stint in Baltimore, returning in 2018 after a pair of head coaching stints at Loyola Marymount and Navy, as well as a pair of stints as assistants for power conference programs UCLA and Tennessee. He’s a coach that has won a lot in Baltimore and elsewhere, so he’ll be hoping to revive the Loyola Maryland program that he led to an 87-45-9 record with five MAAC championships in the late 90s and early 2000s.
Both of these games will be broadcast on ESPN+, with kickoff for tonight’s game set for 7:00 and kickoff for Sunday’s game set for 2:00.