Ninth-ranked Wake Forest had nearly all its key ingredients on the field in a 3-0 win over Maryland in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday night at Spry Stadium.
The only missing ingredient was Coach Bobby Muuss, who watched the game in his office on campus after he was suspended for the game. The NCAA mandated suspension was from his actions in last year’s tournament which he drew a red card and automatic ejection late in the 1-0 loss to Akron.
He served a one-game suspension by the NCAA in the team’s opener for the red card, but was also assessed a game suspension in the tournament for his actions after he received the red card.
Despite the distraction, the Deacons rolled as associate head coaches Steve Armas and Dane Brenner ran the team.
“Bobby said ‘Don’t mess things up,’” Armas said about the final words of advice Muuss gave his staff. “No, to be fair, he gave myself and the staff a lot opportunities all week to feel like we are in charge and to be able to make decisions. That’s Bobby in a nutshell because he allows us as a staff to have input, so he was comfortable and felt good about the preparation of the team.”
The Deacons (14-4-2) advance to Sunday’s third round and will face Michigan at 5 p.m. at Spry Stadium. Muuss will be back on the sideline and the Deacons will have a week to prepare.
Bruno Lapa scored the first goal for the Deacons on a deflection off a shot from Joey DeZart, who was brilliant in the midfield all night. Lapa’s goal came in the 26th minute for a 1-0 lead.
DeZart helped control the midfield as he helped fuel the offensive attack.
During the post-game press conference in a tent on the Spry Stadium practice field, Muuss was out of the NCAA penalty box. He offered Armas a high-five and called DeZart a beast for his outstanding play. Muuss watched the game on the ACC Network in his office but was allowed to come to Spry Stadium after the game.
“The coaches did everything they could to prepare us this week,” DeZart said. “And we executed very well, so we can continue to do that we should be all right as keep going.”
The Terrapins (11-8-2) were the defending national champions but have gone through a rough season with numerous injuries. After playing a first-round game on Thursday in beating Iona on penalty kicks, their depth was tested in the second half.
The Deacons took advantage of their depth and scored again in the 50th minute on Machop Chol’s short shot after a thread-the-needle pass from Isaiah Parente.
Lapa said not having Muuss on the bench is something they went through in their season opener against Central Florida, a 2-1 win.
“All the coaches prepared us for this week, and we were ready to play,” said Lapa, who scored his eighth goal of the season. “As players, we don’t second guess the quality of this coaching staff and what they tell us about our opponent. We fully trusted Coach Armas, Coach Brenner and Coach (Jonathan) Lagos, and Coach Muuss just asked us to win.”
Coach Sasho Cirovski, who is in his 26th season at Maryland and has three national championships, said he was proud of the way his injury-riddled team battled through the season.
It’s not easy to chase the Deacons, especially after playing a game on Thursday night.
“It was important to take some of their rhythm away, but we were just a step slow and it was hard to do that,” Cirovski said. “We did it a few times, but their first two goals didn’t come off their point of attack.”
The Deacons added a third goal late when Kyle Holcomb scored his seventh of the season off an assist from Tater Rennhack.
Armas said getting the midfielders involved early was a big key.
“We were asking a lot from our outside backs and our wingers to be able to press a certain way and take away some of their weapons,” Armas said. “I think as we were able to collect the ball and settle the ball, we were able to play Wake Forest soccer.”
Notes: This is the fifth straight year the Deacons have played host to an NCAA Tournament game since Bobby Muuss took over the program. During the last five seasons, the Deacons were 10-4 in tournament games. The Deacons are also in the NCAA Tournament for the ninth straight season. ... Allistar Johnston, a senior at Wake Forest, went up against his younger brother, Malcolm, a freshman midfielder for Maryland. The two posed for a picture together after the game. ... The Terps, the defending national champions, had a seven-game NCAA Tournament streak of not allowing a goal when the Deacons scored. ... Since Muuss took over the program the Deacons have not played an away game in the NCAA Tournament. The only tournament games the Deacons have played in away from Spry Stadium was at the College Cup in 2016 in Houston where they beat Denver 2-1 in overtime and then lost to Stanford in the championship game on penalty kicks.