Wake Forest men’s soccer is in familiar territory — being named a high seed for the NCAA Tournament.
The Deacons were awarded the No. 4 seed on Monday and received a first-round bye. They will play the winner of Maryland, the defending national champions, and Iona on Sunday at Spry Stadium at 5 p.m.
During all five seasons since Bobby Muuss took over as head coach, the Deacons have been a high seed in the tournament. It’s an honor, according to Muuss, that the Deacons have been consistent enough in the regular season to warrant the high seeds.
“We want to go into the tournament mentally and physically sharp,” said Muuss, whose Deacons are 13-4-2 this season and lost to Virginia 1-0 in the semifinals of the ACC Tournament. “We will spend time this week finding a rhythm as we prepare for either Maryland or Iona.”
Maryland (10-7-2) and Iona (14-5-1) will play Thursday in a first-round game.
As usual, the Deacons navigated one of the toughest conferences in the country to finish second in the Atlantic Division of the ACC. A record 10 ACC teams qualified for the NCAA Tournament, the most in conference history.
The other nine ACC teams in the tournament are top-ranked Virginia, the ACC champion, second-ranked Clemson, 10th-ranked Virginia Tech along with Boston College, Louisville, N.C. State, Notre Dame and Syracuse.
Getting a second-round home game is a reward for the difficult schedule the seventh-ranked Deacons have played.
“We’ve been fortunate to be at home in the postseason in the NCAA’s before, and we love having that playoff atmosphere at Spry,” Muuss said. “It really is a great accomplishment to be a top-4 seed and something we hope the guys will never forget.”
Muuss has a 9-4 record in the NCAA Tournament since taking over at Wake Forest before the 2015 season, which includes one trip to the College Cup, the NCAA version of the Final Four.
The Deacons have shown a good balance this season on offense; there have been 13 different players who have scored at least one goal this season.
Senior Bruno Lapa leads the team with seven goals and three assists, while freshman Calvin Harris has six goals and three assists. Machop Chol has three goals and seven assists.
The depth that Muuss has developed will come in handy in the NCAA Tournament.
Goalie Andrew Pannenberg has a 12-4 record with seven solo shutouts for the Deacons. His .755 save percentage was one of the top marks in the ACC.
“We are in good shape,” Muuss said about his team’s overall health. “We’ll have some good training this week and be ready for Sunday. We don’t want to change anything in our approach, so we are looking forward to being in the tournament.”
If the Deacons advance after Sunday’s game, they will have another home game thanks to the high seeding. The College Cup is scheduled for Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary on Dec. 13. The championship game is scheduled for Dec. 15.
Tickets for Sunday’s game are $10 for adults (19 and older) and $5 for youth ages 4 to 18 and $3 for college students. Unlike the regular-season, where there is no charge to sit on the Walt Chyzowych Alumni Hill just outside the stadium, tickets must be purchased for that area. For more information call 336-758-3322 (ext. 2) or visit the Wake Forest athletics website.