No. 2 men’s soccer edges out No. 7 Wake Forest 1-0 in ACC semifinals

Junior forward Nathaniel Crofts netted the lone goal for the Cavaliers

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Junior forward Nathaniel Crofts recorded his fifth goal of the season Wednesday night, which proved to be the difference-maker against Wake Forest.  

Julia Stewart | Cavalier Daily

No. 2 men’s soccer defeated No. 7 Wake Forest Wednesday night, sending the Cavaliers to their 20th ACC championship appearance. The Cavaliers (16-1-1, 6-1-1 ACC) downed the Demon Deacons (13-4-2, 6-2-0 ACC) 1-0 by way of a 25th minute goal by junior forward Nathaniel Crofts. 

In the 24 minutes leading up to Crofts’ goal, both teams were uncharacteristically silent, as Wake Forest tallied the only shot and corner kick. However, it was in the 25th minute where the Cavaliers found a break. 

Sophomore forward Daniel Steedman passed the ball to senior captain defender Robin Afamefuna in the left corner, who sent a cross into the 18-yard box. As the ball went past multiple Cavaliers and Demon Deacons, it fell to Crofts, who half-volleyed it past sophomore goalkeeper Andrew Pannenberg. 

In the 41st minute, however, Wake Forest threatened to even the game up, as junior midfielder Justin McMaster rang a shot off the crossbar — just inches away from a 1-1 match. 

At the end of the first half characterized by offensive chances that were few and far between, Virginia had five shots to Wake Forest’s two — attesting to the defensive prowess of a Cavalier defense that has only allowed six goals in 18 matches.

The second half was much of the same from the two teams, as the ACC foes often struggled to maintain possession in the center of the field and generate effective attacks. In the 81st minute, the Demon Deacons recorded their only shot on goal, as freshman forward Calvin Harris sent his shot straight at junior goalkeeper Colin Shutler.

However, that would be the final shot on goal for the Demon Deacons, as Virginia held strong defensively to seal a 1-0 win. 

Notably, this match was Shutler’s 13th shutout of the season — good for first in the country — as the first-team All-ACC selection has also posted the best save percentage and lowest goals against average in the nation.

This game was also the 12th home game Virginia has won this season — attesting to the support that the raucous Cavalier fans provide day in and day out at Klockner Stadium. 

"[Home-field advantage] is obviously very big for us, because this is our fortress, this is our home, in front of our fans," sophomore forward Daryl Dike said. "It's like having another man when we play here.”

Virginia now moves on to play No. 1 Clemson Sunday in the ACC Championship at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C. Kick-off is set for 12 p.m., and the match will be televised on ESPNU. 

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