Wake Forest exploits defensive miscues, downs U.Va.
Demon Deacons' 4-1 victory marks Cavaliers' fourth consecutive ACC loss
The Virginia men’s soccer team suffered its worst defeat of the season Friday, losing 4-1 to No. 18 Wake Forest in a critical home matchup.
Although the final tally in the game was lopsided, the contest itself was highly competitive at times with the Cavaliers (6-6-1, 1-4 ACC) showing encouraging glimpses.
“We played well, to be honest with you,” coach George Gelnovatch said. “I thought the game in long stretches was a very good soccer game. Both teams were moving the ball very well and both teams were going after each other.”
The loss drops Virginia’s winning percentage down to .500 on the season and marked the team’s fourth consecutive loss to an ACC opponent. Virginia’s only conference victory came against Duke Sept. 7.
The Demon Deacons (8-2-4, 2-1-3) took the early lead in the sixth minute after sophomore forward Sean Okoli capitalized on a defensive miscue by Virginia. Playing against a team as talented and experienced as Wake Forest, the early deficit proved to be too much for the inexperienced Cavaliers to surmount.
“Wake Forest is a good team,” Gelnovatch said. “So when you get behind early, especially for a young team like we are who’s trying to figure out our way to do things, it makes it tough to get back in the game.”
The early goal came when Wake Forest junior midfielder Jared Watts took possession of the ball following a Cavalier backline turnover. Watts then threaded a ball that appeared to be heading to senior Luciano Delbono, who was standing at the top of the box, but the midfielder feigned at the ball and let it pass by him.
The ball continued through the box until it got to the foot of Okoli, who was waiting roughly 12 yards away from goal in a position that Gelnovatch initially believed to be offside. The unmarked forward placed the ball into the back of the net to give the Demon Deacons the advantage.
“The first goal looked offside to me, but I have to look at it again,” Gelonvatch said. “But I think that made a big difference in the game.”
Virginia was able to reach the halftime break with the score still 1-0 and looked to be in good position to fight its way back into the contest after earning a 8-5 shot advantage in the first period. But the game took a drastic turn when the Demon Deacons scored two quick goals that came within two minutes of each other.
In the 64th minute, another defensive lapse led to a goal by Delbono to increase Wake Forest’s lead to two. After the Cavalier defense seemed to lose track of the ball, Delbono found himself unguarded standing 25 yards away from goal with possession. When no Virginia defender stepped up to contest, Delbono fired a low strike that squeaked past sophomore goalkeeper Spencer LaCivita.
Then, in the 66th minute, junior midfielder Ross Tomaselli placed a through ball perfectly between two Virginia defenders, which found freshman midfielder Michael Gamble in behind the defense. Gamble proceeded to make a nifty first touch, pushing the ball past a streaking LaCivita who had come out from goal to challenge and then placing his shot into the open net.
“The second goal was a ball lost and they take advantage of it — boom boom and it’s in the back of the goal.” Gelnovatch said. “They capitalized on two of our mistakes and all of a sudden we find ourselves down 3-0, in a game that I thought was pretty even.”
Allowing goals off of defensive errors has become a recurring theme for the Cavaliers this year. Virginia gave up a score off of an ill-timed turnover just seconds into the team’s first match this season, a loss against Georgetown, and then did the same thing last week in a win against High Point.
“It’s definitely a problem that we’ll have to address,” senior forward Will Bates said. “Because it’s been a trend.”
Bates was able to trim the Cavalier deficit in the 79th minute when he got free in behind the Wake Forest defense after a Cavalier corner kick and ripped the ball passed the keeper to make the score 3-1.
It was too little, too late, however, as the Cavaliers — despite outshooting Wake Forest 16-11 in the game — could not score again in the contest.
With Virginia pushing its entire team forward, the Demon Deacons were able to add a fourth goal for good measure in the 89th minute when Tomaselli got free on a breakaway and put away the easy finish.
The Cavaliers will look to right the ship Tuesday when they continue their homestand against Wright State (3-8-1, 1-2-1 Horizon).