Wake Forest - Four And A Half Star Recruiting Class - The Demon Deacons look to be well positioned to build on the 11-4-5 overall record and number fifteen seed in the NCAA tourney that they secured last year.
Wake Forest has earned a berth in the NCAA tourney eleven out of the past twelve seasons and is among the programs that you expect to see in the field every year. When a program’s recent history includes advancing to the Final Four from 2006 through 2009 and winning a national championship in 2007 then making it to the tourney is not as much a destination as a starting point. Accordingly the 2012 campaign was disappointing when the Deacs were one and done in the NCAA tourney. The players who participated in the 2006 through 2009 seasons have now graduated but the legacy of their success and the expectations that go with it remain.
Jay Vidovich enters his 20th season as the head coach at Wake Forest with the challenge of addressing several gaps on the defensive side of the ball that exist due to the graduation of backs Anthony Arena (1g, 1a), Ben Newman (0g, 2a) and Danny Wenzel and defensive midfielder Luciano Delbono (1g, 2a). They were part of a veteran Demon Deacon defense that held opponents to nineteen goals last year and posted seven clean sheets.
On the plus side of the ledger eight starters return including senior midfielder and All-ACC First Team selection Jared Watts, along with senior forward Luca Gimenez and junior forward Sean Okoli who were All-ACC Second Team selections. The Deacs also return three of the top sophomores in the country in forward Michael Gamble, midfielder Collin Martin and defender Jalen Robinson who were named to the 2012 All-ACC Freshman team.
The Deacons add an eight member recruiting class that includes three players who have already enrolled and will be able to participate in the spring season and five newcomers who will enroll in the fall. The new additions include defender Rafael Fagundo from Herndon, Virginia who played for the DC United Academy team and midfielder Hunter Brady from Boca Raton, Florida who played club soccer for Team Boca. Both are ranked by CSN as among the top 100 players in the class of 2013.
Wake Forest’s 2013 recruiting class is not as strong on paper as their 2012 class that was ranked by CSN as the number one class in the nation but the potential exists for the 2013 class to be just as productive. Vidovich stated, “I think what we have with this group are some good soccer players who can get a lot better. Their growth potential is tremendous.”
The Deacs enter the 2013 season seeking to keep pace in the ACC with Maryland who will remain in the conference for one more season before moving to the Big Ten, North Carolina and Virginia. It’s worth noting that Wake Forest tied the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill, thumped nemesis Virginia 4-1 in Charlottesville and topped the Terps 4-2 at home in regular season play last year. The point being that this is a team with a very solid foundation upon which to build.
Players who netted thirty-six of the forty goals that Wake Forest put in the back of the net in 2012 are scheduled to return in 2013. Okoli (11g, 3a), Gimenez (7g, 3a) and Gamble (8g, 4a) will give the Deacons plenty of firepower and depth up-top and offer Vidovich several lineup options.
The midfield will be experienced, talented, and deep. Watts (2g, 4a) has been an impact player since arriving on campus and appears primed for a great senior season. Martin (1g, 6a) who led the Deacs in assists last year should be even more effective with a year of play under his belt. Seniors Kyle Emerson (0g, 1a) and Ross Tomaseli (3g, 3a) and junior Teddy Mullin (0g, 1a) return to round out what looks to be a very competitive group of midfielders. Senior Kovi Konowiecki is among other returning midfielders who should be in the mix in 2013.
Sophomore center back Robinson (2g, 1a) will anchor the backline but will be without the benefit of the experienced upper classmen that surrounded him last year. Junior Sam Fink (1g, 1a), senior Tolani Ibikunle and sophomore Chris Duvall (1g, 3a) are among other returning defenders who seek to play a greater role in 2013. Highly regarded sophomore Andrew Harris from Baltimore who saw action in five contests last year looks to be in line to take over the starting role between the pipes.
Wake Forest has the mixture of youth and experienced players that is likely to produce consistency but not complacency. The Deacs will be deep up-top, the midfield will be solid but reloading is required in the back which may be problematic in the early going.
Tane Gent - Defender - Christchurch, New Zealand - Andrews College - Selected as the Youth Player of the Year at Woolston Tech and the Auckland City Youth Sportsman of the Year in 2012.
Hayden Partain - Midfielder - Frisco, Texas - Wakeland High School - Plays club for Solar Chelsea USSF Development Academy. Participated in 2012 USSF DA Nationals.
Shane Powell - Defender - Wilmington, Delaware - Salesianum School - Attended Providence for two years. Transferred to Richmond in 2012 where he made sixteen starts.
Ian Harkes - Midfielder - Fairfax, Virginia - Gonzaga College High School - DC United Academy. Named NSCAA High School All-American. 2011 DC Gatorade Player of the Year.
Hunter Brady - Forward - Boca Raton, Florida - Boca Raton Community High School - Played club for Team Boca. Ranked by CSN as the number 81 player in the class of 2013. County Player of the Year.
Rafael Fagundo - Defender - Herndon, Virginia - Paul VI - DC United Academy. Greater D.C. Starting XI team. First Team All-State. Ranked as the number 61 player in the class of 2013 by CSN.
William Robinson - Defender - Roswell, Georgia - Lassiter High - Played for the Concorde Fire.
Grant Bishop - Goalkeeper - Raleigh, N.C. - Broughton High - CASL Chelsea FC Academy.