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Aug 07, 2012

Wake Forest Season Preview

Wake Forest Demon Deacons                                    

2011 Overall Record / Conference Record: 8-8-5 / 4-3-1                                     

2011 Final ACC Rank: 6

2011 Final NCAA Rank: 40

Overview:

Last season, Wake Forest was one of the youngest teams in the ACC with not a single senior on the roster. However, the team still managed an above .500 season in arguably the most competitive conference in the country and went on to win a College Cup match over South Carolina.

Despite a respectable 2011 campaign, 19th-year head coach Jay Vidovich is hoping for a lot more from his Demon Deacons this fall.

“This offseason, we’ve done a great job of assessing ourselves and deciding where we want to be as a team,” said Coach Vidovich. “We found out where our ambitions are, and that’s to chase trophies.”

With improvements to be expected across the board and nearly the entire roster coming back from last year, Wake Forest could be a dangerous dark horse in the ACC this season. Several coaches around the conference have predicted the Demon Deacons to finish as high as third.

Forwards:

Wake Forest was sixth in the ACC in goals scored last season with 28, well off the pace of the conference’s top four teams which all finished with at least 40. This season, the Demon Deacons will look for added production primarily from a senior leader coming off a down year, and a dynamic sophomore with seemingly unlimited potential.

Andy Lubahn led the Demon Deacons in points with 14 in 2011, his second straight season as the team’s most productive offensive player. He has started 61-of-64 matches since arriving on campus as a freshman in 2009 and has tallied nine game-winning goals in his first three collegiate seasons. Entering his senior year, even more will be expected of Lubahn as he heads a dangerous offensive attack.

“He produced a lot last year although he didn’t produce as many goals as we had hoped,” said Coach Vidovich of Lubahn, who posted a career-low four goals in 2011. “At the same time though, he gets himself in good positions and he works hard for the team so we know he’s capable of scoring big goals in big games.”

Sean “Ugo” Okoli tied Lubahn’s four goals for second on the team as a freshman in 2011, and is a target of high expectations for Vidovich and the Wake Forest coaching staff. Okoli was named to the All-ACC Freshman Team in his rookie season and is widely regarded as a player with an extremely high upside. He was a member of the U.S. U-18 National Team and played club soccer as a member of the Seattle Sounders Academy.

“He has potential to be special if he can concentrate and focus for long periods of time,” said Coach Vidovich of Okoli. “He’s a potential big-time talent in this league.”

Midfielders

The depth of the 2012 Demon Deacons lies in the midfield. Jared Watts was an All-ACC First Team selection as a sophomore last fall for his well-rounded contributions in all facets of the game. Meanwhile, Ross Tomaselli and Luciano Delbono also played big roles in the Wake Forest midfield in 2011 as Tomaselli enters his junior year and Delbono enters his senior season.

“We’ve got some tremendous options in the midfield,” said Coach Vidovich. “We have four, five or six guys that we know can already play for us and some more that will have opportunities to step in.”

Kyle Emerson missed all of last season with a knee injury sustained in the preseason, and was unable to build on his fantastic freshman season in which he was named to the All-ACC Freshman Team and played in every game including 18 starts. He is healthy now and expected to pick up right where he left off after that breakout freshman campaign.

Teddy Mullin played significant minutes as a freshman in 2011 and was tied for the team lead in assists with six. He was a member of the All-ACC Freshman Team and is likely to see an even more expanded role this fall.

Defense

Wake Forest was the second worst defensive team in the ACC last season, giving up 31 goals in 21 games played and finishing with a goals against average of 1.48, a mark only better than N.C. State’s 1.60. This season, the Demon Deacons will look for some familiar faces to step up and for others to stay healthy, in addition to trying out some promising new piece as they try to repair the defensive struggles from a year ago.

Danny Wenzel is entering his fifth year in the Wake Forest soccer program, second season as team captain, and will be looked to not only as a leader of the team but as a key member of the back line.

“Danny Wenzel has been around the block,” said Coach Vidovich. “He’s finding his form once again and he’s going to be valuable in our success this year.”

Anthony Arena is the team’s other seasoned veteran on the defensive side as he enters the final year of his already decorated career. Arena missed four games and played through several others with a sports hernia in 2011, which hampered his performance but according to Vidovich has made a full recovery and is back in top shape.

Other players expected to make a difference this season defensively for Wake Forest are sophomore Sam Fink, junior right back Chris Duvall, senior left back Ben Newman, and junior Tolani Ibikunle, who is coming off an outstanding summer playing for the Harrisburg City Islanders in the Premier Development League.

“The big thing on defense is we have a lot of guys with experience,” said Coach Vidovich. “We’ve got quite a few options in the back right now, and everyone is dead solid. The question is who is going to step up and establish themselves as the top players in the conference and hopefully in the country.”

For Wake Forest, perhaps the biggest question mark on the defensive side is the goalkeeper position. Michael Lisch started all 21 matches as a junior in 2011, but will face serious competition in practice this summer for the starting job. Freshman Andrew Harris out of Baltimore is a two-time high school All-American and was ranked by ESPNHS as the 33rd best recruit in the country for the class of 2012.

“Andrew will be challenging for the starting job from the first practice on, and we would feel very comfortable with him as our starting goalkeeper,” said Vidovich.

Top New Faces

Collin Martin (Freshman, Midfield)

Coach’s Analysis: “We think he’s got tremendous upside. He’s got talents that make him unique and when he can adapt to the physicality of college soccer we think he’s going to be a big asset. He can play as a modern day No. 10.”

Jalen Robinson (Freshman, Defender / Holding Midfield)

Coach’s Analysis: “He’s coming off an injury but he’s got tremendous talent and we’re going to do everything possible to get him on the field.”

Michael Gamble (Freshman, Forward)

Coach’s Analysis: “He’s an exciting attacking player, he’s very dynamic. He can run at defenders and he’s versatile so we may try to get him on the field as a defender as well.”

Andrew Harris (Freshman, Goalkeeper)

Coach’s Analysis: “He’s won every high school award you can imagine up in the Maryland area so he’s another very capable freshman- should challenge Michael Lisch for the starting job.”

Key Matches

Sept. 7 @ Clemson* – Conference opener

Sept. 11 @ Louisville

Sept. 14 @ North Carolina*

Oct. 12 @ Virginia*

Nov. 1 vs. Maryland* – Regular season finale

* Indicates conference match

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