Wake Forest Men’s Soccer: A talented, resilient bunch

Adrian Martino/Old Gold & Black

Adrian Martino/Old Gold & Black

Down but never out has been a good way to describe the Wake Forest men’s soccer team lately. With their backs against the wall — quite literally against Walt’s Wall — the Deacs found a way to keep themselves alive, this time fighting for a 1-1 tie against UNC in double overtime on Saturday, Sept. 28. A regular-season record-setting crowd watched as Wake grinded out a tough draw to pick up a point in ACC play to move into a tie for first with Maryland.

The Tarheels struck early, going up 1-0 in the 25th minute, and continued to show why they were ranked No. 1 nationally with an impressive back line. As the clock started winding down, it looked as if the Deacs would pick up their first ACC loss — but sophomore defender Jalen Robinson had other plans. In the dying minute of the second half of regulation, Robinson connected on a corner from sophomore forward Michael Gamble to get his first goal of the year and draw the Deacs even with UNC. After being hurt during the preseason, Robinson is happy with his performance since making a full recovery. “It was awesome for sure,” Robinson said. “I never would have expected that for myself, just coming back from injury. It’s truly a blessing.”

While a number of the Deacs had remarkable performances, the best player of the night wasn’t a player at all — instead, it was the 12th man. Spry’s Army was out in full force as the stands and the newly dedicated Walt Chyzowych Alumni Hill was packed with students and fans, ready to cheer for their Deacs. Fan support has been incredibly impressive this year and the team is well aware of just how special that is.

“The atmosphere here was incredible,” senior midfielder Jared Watts said. “Seeing the new wall packed with students, the stands were packed. The atmosphere was awesome. Spry’s Army, they gave us a boost. Any time we made a big play, they were there, and we could hear them. It was awesome to have that experience.”

“It’s a deep down feeling,” coach Jay Vidovich said. “Just the utmost respect for what Walt did for this program, for soccer in America and for my career. To open it [the Walt Chyzowych Alumni Hill] up, I know a lot of alums came in, to see it packed like that, it was the 12th man. There was not a seat open here.”

On Tuesday, Oct. 1, the team had to leave behind Spry’s Army as they hit the road to face UNC Charlotte. Although it was a different opponent this time, Wake once again fell behind early, this time in the 24th, when Giuseppe Gentile scored off a free kick to put the 49ers up 1-0. The Deacs struggled to make an offensive presence in the first 45 and went into halftime needing something to change.

As the squad took the field again, it was clear that determined spark was back when Gamble scored at the back post on an assist from sophomore defender Philip Parker to bring the Deacs even 1-1.

Despite a number of good chances through two overtime periods, Wake just couldn’t break through, tying Charlotte 1-1, dropping them to 5-2-2 through 2013.

It was the second game in a row that the end result wasn’t quite what the Deacs wanted, but they’ll take the point and continue to work towards picking up their next win. “It was a very important match for us,” Gamble said. “We knew how good Charlotte was in this area and how tough a place it is to come to and get any result out of it.”

The Deacs will be back in action on Friday Oct. 4 when they host Virginia Tech. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Spry Stadium.

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