Virginia men’s soccer took down No. 2 Wake Forest Sunday night 2-0 in the ACC tournament quarterfinals in Winston-Salem N.C. The fourth-seeded Cavaliers (3-3-1, 2-3-1 ACC) upset the top-seeded Demon Deacons (7-2-0, 5-1-0 ACC) with two goals from junior forward Cabrel Happi Kamseu.
After early pressure from Wake Forest, Virginia found its groove, firing off shots and forcing the Demon Deacons’ junior goalkeeper Andrew Pannenberg to make two saves in the game’s first 30 minutes. In the 31st minute, the Cavaliers secured an unlikely goal from Happi Kamseu just over two minutes after he checked into the match.
After a cross was deflected high into the air by Wake Forest sophomore defender Nico Benalcazar, Happi Kamseu jumped, heading the ball down and off the back of Wake Forest freshman defender Prince Amponsah’s head. The misdirection was just enough to freeze Pannenberg, as the ball slipped past the goalkeeper and just beyond the goalline, which was later confirmed by an official video review.
Virginia nearly doubled its lead in the 40th minute when graduate student midfielder Joan Gibert Fuertes sent a low curling shot from 18 yards out that was just deflected wide by Pannenberg’s outstretched arm.
In the first half, the Cavaliers outshot the Demon Deacons seven to five while also recording three shots on frame to Wake Forest’s one. It marked Virginia’s second game of the season in which the team led heading into the halftime break — the only other occasion being an eventual overtime loss to Notre Dame.
Despite receiving a yellow card only seconds into the second period, Happi Kamseu found the back of the net for a second time in the 52nd minute. After intercepting an ill-advised pass from Amponsah, Happi Kamseu demonstrated professional poise by lofting a looping shot over an out-of-position Pannenberg from just outside the 18-yard box.
The two goals for Happi Kamseu — his firsts of the season — vaulted him into the position of the team’s scoring leader, as Virginia’s seven previous goals on the year all came from different players.
The Cavaliers were able to keep the Demon Deacons’ attack at bay for the first 20 minutes of the second half. However, beginning in the 68th minute with a diving header attempt from sophomore forward David Wrona, Wake Forest began to put significant pressure on Virginia’s back line.
Right after Happi Kamseu nearly completed a hat-trick in the 79th minute — when his shot sailed just wide of the goal — junior defender Oliver Gerbig kept the Demon Deacons off the board with a sliding save on a shot from sophomore defender Koby Carr.
Gerbig’s effort effectively stymied the last of Wake Forest’s quality goal-scoring opportunities. The shot from Carr was the team’s fifth in a span of just 12 minutes, but the Demon Deacons were not able to generate any more chances for the remainder of the game.
For Virginia, the shutout was just its second in seven games, and the first for former All-American graduate goalkeeper Colin Shutler, who missed three games with an injury. Also joining Shutler in a return from injury was senior forward Nathaniel Crofts, who played his first game since the team’s season opener.
“The nature of this game with the passing out of the back, I think Colin [Shutler] did a great job in that regard,” Coach George Gelnovatch said. “[Crofts], one of our captains and leaders, just added some stability to the group.”
Also battling back from injury was Happi Kamseu, who has dealt with numerous injuries throughout his career.
“If we could keep him healthy, I think he would have a big impact more continuously,” Gelnovatch said. “He’s a beast. You could see that especially on the first goal, and we’re happy to have him healthy.”
While the Cavaliers were getting healthy, the Demon Deacons missed several key players Sunday due to COVID-19 protocols. Compared to its previous game against NC State, five starters for Wake Forest were out against Virginia.
“Numbers were scarce, but it wasn’t an excuse,” Wake Forest Coach Bobby Muuss said. “We played a lot of young guys, a lot of inexperience on the field, but that’s not really an excuse because the guys have gotten a little bit of a run here and there in the conference.”
With the win, the Cavaliers advance to play Clemson in the ACC Tournament semifinals — a rematch of last year’s tournament final in which then-No. 2 Virginia took down the then-No. 1 Tigers. The game is scheduled to kickoff at 6 p.m. Wednesday and it will be televised on ACC Network.