Attaining such a lofty perch in college soccer as the top-ranked team in the country might add pressure.
Not at Wake Forest.
The Deacons, who moved up in the latest coaches’ poll to No. 1, played the part with a 3-1 win over scrappy Dartmouth on Friday night in front of just over 2,000 at Spry Stadium.
Coach Bobby Muuss, who won his 150th career game, shrugged off the No. 1 ranking. He was much more excited that the Deacons improved to 3-0 and played their best 90 minutes of the season.
“I think with the ball, it was,” Muuss said when asked if this was his team’s best showing of the season. “I thought in the attacking third we were better and I liked the pace. And to be honest, that’s what we trained for all week; we knew they would sit deep on us.”
Justin McMaster scored two goals and Alistair Johnson added a late insurance goal as the Deacons dominated possession all night. Dartmouth, opening its season, managed just five shots with only one coming in the second half.
For the second time this season the Deacons scored on their first shot of the game, when McMaster converted a header off a crossing pass from Eddie Folds. Also getting an assist was Isaiah Parente.
Even though Dartmouth was having trouble creating anything in its attacking area, it scored in the 29th minute when Wake Forest’s defense allowed David Alino to reach a ball in front of goalie Andrew Pannenberg. Alino’s short shot after a throw in went off the bottom of the crossbar and in to tie the game at 1.
“I really wish we wouldn’t have given up that one goal and that’s no disrespect to Dartmouth,” Muuss said. “At halftime we showed the guys that goal about four times and we said we can’t give up goals like that if we want to be a good team.”
The Deacons heard Muuss and his assistant coaches at halftime, so they came out and controlled the entire field.
In the 62nd minute, McMaster struck again, getting into the right corner and taking a shot from a tough angle that deflected off defender Henry Baldwin and in for a 2-1 lead.
Last season the Deacons spent a majority of the regular season as the top-ranked team in the nation so it’s nothing new, according to McMaster.
“No, we don’t try and focus on what the rankings say,” McMaster said. “If we are No. 1 or not we just focus on what we need to do each game.”
In the 83rd minute, the Deacons scored off another crossing pass, this time from freshman Omar Hernandez, whose pass found Johnston who headed it in for a 3-1 lead.
The Deacons had 19 shots, with four of them coming from freshman Calvin Harris, making his first career start. Two of his shots were just wide.
Harris logged 68 minutes and said he’s getting more and more comfortable with the Deacons.
“I would say that so far this was our most complete game and we all worked hard for this one,” said Harris, from Middlesbrough, England. “All my lads did very well and we were excited to play tonight. Dartmouth made it tough for us but we stayed patient and it worked out.”
On Friday afternoon the team gathered to go over the game plan and that’s when Muuss revealed his starting lineup. “I saw my name up there so that’s when I knew I was starting,” Harris said.
The Deacons, one of the deepest teams in the country, had 19 players see action on Friday night. Harris said the No. 1 ranking is nice, but that’s not what they are after so early in the season.
“It’s about consistency and that’s what we are trying to do in each of our games,” Harris said.
Notes: Michael DeShields of Wake Forest was named the ACC defensive player of the week after helping the Deacons to two victories last week. DeShields, a defender, also had an assist on a goal by Kyle Holcomb in a 2-1 win over 15th-ranked Central Florida…. This month is the 25th anniversary of the death of Walt Chyzowych, a former Wake Forest coach who helped build the program. Chyzowych died in September of 1994 of a heart attack at the age of 57. He took over the program in 1986 and three years later the program finished the season ranked fourth. The Walt Chyzowych Alumni Hill at Spry Stadium is one of the best features of any stadium in the country…. Coach Bo Oshoniyi of Dartmouth is in his second season. He’s a former assistant coach at Wake Forest where he spent two seasons on Jay Vidovich’s staff…. In the latest United Soccer Coaches Top 25 poll four ACC schools are ranked in the top 10 with Wake Forest No. 1, Duke fifth, Virginia seventh and Virginia Tech 10th…. The Deacons will play at Spry Stadium again on Monday with a 7 p.m. game against Houston Baptist.