Andrew Pannenberg of Wake Forest didn’t flinch when he was told he would be the starting goalie this season for the men’s soccer team.
The redshirt sophomore also hasn’t flinched on the field as he’s helped the Deacons to a No. 4 ranking and a 12-2 overall record. On Friday night, Pannenberg helped the Deacons to their eighth shutout of the season with a 1-0 victory over 19th-ranked North Carolina at Spry Stadium.
The win was another step toward winning the ACC’s Atlantic Division for the fifth consecutive year. It also was Pannenberg’s seventh solo shutout of the season.
The Deacons will be back in action at 7 p.m. today at Spry Stadium against Loyola Maryland for their final nonconference game of the season. After that game, they finish their home schedule Saturday against Notre Dame. Wake Forest can clinch another division title with a victory against the Irish.
Pannenberg, who is 6-foot-3 and a sturdy 195 pounds, grabbed the starting spot that was supposed to go to Andreu Cases Mundet, a rising senior and All-American.
Mundet, a three-year starter, had six shutouts last season and is one of the top goalies in school history. But he has not been able to play while recovering from a concussion.
Pannenberg, however, has more than held his own.
“It was a bit of a transition, but this summer I played a lot with my (development) team, and I just kept training to be ready for the season,” Pannenberg said about helping the Flint City (Mich.) Bucks to a league title. “I just got here at Wake in August, and did what I had to do and was ready when I was called.”
Coach Bobby Muuss has loved the way Pannenberg, who was named defensive player of the week in the ACC for the second time this season, has continued to improve as the season has gone on. The Deacons have three shutouts in the ACC, and Panneberg’s .784 save percentage ranks third in the conference. He has allowed just eight goals in 14 games, which is also third best in the league.
“Andrew’s been great,” Muuss said. “I think you see Andrew’s confidence with his feet and our build. He was very confident (on Friday night) and doing things that needed to be done there on our back line.”
Pannenberg says the back line of Mike DeShields, Justyn Thomas, Alistair Johnston and Eddie Folds has been a key to his success. The Tar Heels managed just four shots in Friday’s game.
“I try to keep the back line as organized as possible and keep talking and letting them know what’s going on out there,” Pannenberg said. “I try to be ready for anything.”
DeShields said he wasn’t surprised at how Pannenberg has seized the starting spot in goal.
“Andrew has stepped up so much for us this year,” DeShields said. “Nobody knew what was going to happen with Andreu’s injury and all that, but Andrew didn’t hesitate and stepped right into the position and has been all over the place for us.”
DeShields acknowledged that the Deacons pride themselves on playing solid on the defensive half of the field, and it starts with having Pannenberg in goal.
“Every goalie is different and we aren’t going to compare him to Andreu, but we build off the back like we’ve always done that here at Wake Forest,” DeShields said. “He’s just done a tremendous job.”
Muuss says the defense is setting the tone in recent games, and the offense has been doing its part with 14 goals in the last four games.
“Andrew’s playing the right way, and his communication has been fantastic,” Muuss said. “You can’t hear it with big crowds like this, but he organizes on our re-starts. ... The guys are tuned in.”
Muuss says getting another shutout is a big deal and it’s something his players talk about.
“It’s about collectiveness,” Muuss said about the defense. “This group prides itself on getting shutouts, and I think that was our eighth shutout overall and our third one in league play. That’s hard to do in the ACC.”
Even though Mundet has been entrenched as Wake Forest’s top goalie over the last three seasons, he’s been a help to Pannenberg’s development.
“Andreu’s helped me so much ever since I’ve been here,” Pannenberg said. “He’s showed me a lot, and he’s a just a tremendous guy off the field as well.”
Pannenberg is enjoying his breakout season and says there’s more work to do as the Deacons look ahead to the ACC Tournament and the NCAA Tournament.
“It’s a good time to be playing good football,” he said.