No. 1 men’s soccer defeated ACC rival No. 9 Wake Forest under a torrential rain Friday night to advance to the NCAA championship game. The Cavaliers (21-1-1, 6-1-1 ACC) edged the Demon Deacons (16-5-2, 6-2-0 ACC) with the help of two goals from sophomore forward Daryl Dike, despite a late penalty-kick conversion by the Demon Deacons.
Wake Forest started off the game fast, quickly looking to avenge their ACC semifinal loss to Virginia exactly one month ago. The Demon Deacons took three shots in the first 17 minutes, forcing junior goalkeeper Colin Shutler to make an acrobatic save off of a free kick.
However, in the 19th minute, Virginia would bite back on the counter-attack. Freshman defender Andreas Ueland sent a long 50-yard through ball to Dike, who streaked past Wake Forest freshman defender Nico Benalcazar. Dike let the ball take three bounces, and struck it from the right of the goal at what seemed like an impossible angle.
Dike’s shot sailed past the outstretched arms of sophomore goalkeeper Andrew Pannenberg and into the net, giving the Cavaliers a 1-0 lead and sucking the momentum away from the Demon Deacons.
This momentum would prove vital for Virginia, as the Cavaliers proceeded to secure a corner kick in the 22nd minute. Sophomore forward Daniel Steedman sent a perfect cross into the penalty box, and Dike elevated over multiple Wake Forest defenders to head the ball past Pannenberg for his second goal of the night and ninth on the season.
Despite the quick start from both teams, the Cavaliers and the Demon Deacons would combine for just three shots in the final 22 minutes of the half, as Virginia entered half-time up 2-0.
In the second-half, down two goals, Wake Forest brought pressure. The Demon Deacons posted three shots on goal in the first 18 minutes of the half. Nevertheless, Shutler rose to the challenge and made three saves to keep Wake Forest at bay.
As the Demon Deacons continued to prod the elite Virginia back-line, Shutler continued make crucial saves, but in the 79th minute Wake Forest would catch a break. Ueland was beat off the dribble by Wake Forest junior Midfielder Machop Chol and tried to slide tackle Chol to dispossess him. However, all Ueland got was Chol’s legs, and the Demon Deacons were awarded a penalty kick.
At a time where it looked like the Cavaliers were falling and the Demon Deacons were surging, Wake Forest senior midfielder Bruno Lapa came up to take the kick. He struck the ball low to the left of Shutler, and Shutler guessed correctly. Nevertheless, the shot had too much pace for the Middleburg, Va. native, as it went off his fingertips and into the net.
In the following ten minutes — which seemed like ten hours for Virginia fans — the Cavaliers continued to sniff out any hint of a Demon Deacon comeback, attempting to maintain possession in their attacking third. Virginia ultimately held off Wake Forest, defeating the Demon Deacons 2-1 for a chance to play for its eighth national championship.
Shutler was nothing short of outstanding for the Cavaliers, posting seven saves — some at times where it seemed like Wake Forest was certain to score. Offensively, Dike was similarly stellar, as the third-team All-American scored two impressive goals off of Virginia’s two shots on goal.
Virginia will now face No. 2 Georgetown in the finals of the 2019 College Cup, as the Cavaliers play in their ninth championship game, while the Hoyas play in their second. Kick-off is slated for 6:00 p.m. in Cary, N.C. and the match will be broadcast live on ESPNU.