Wake Forest 2014 Team and Recruiting Class Review

Team - Wake Forest
Conference - Atlantic Coast Conference
Coach - Jay Vidovich (21st as head coach, 29th overall at Wake Forest)  
Background The Demon Deacons were 10-6-5 overall last year with a 6-1-4 mark in conference play.  They had signature wins over Virginia, VCU, and Maryland.  Wake Forest was awarded the number fourteen seed in the NCAA Tournament and advanced past Navy 2-1 before being eliminated by eventual national champion Notre Dame 4-2.  The Demon Deacons are among the premier college soccer programs in the country having earned an invite to the NCAA Tourney eleven out of the past twelve seasons including four consecutive trips to the College Cup from 2006 through 2009 and a national championship in 2007.  
Offense The fact that Wake Forest will enter the 2014 season without players who accounted for twenty-eight of the thirty-nine goals they placed in the back of the net last year means that some reloading must take place on the offensive side of the ball.  The Deacons lose their top three goals scorers from 2013.  Key departures include leading scorer forward Sean Okoli (9g, 3a) who elected to forgo his senior season to sign a homegrown contract with the Seattle Sounders and forward/midfielder Luca Gimenez (8g, 5a) who graduated.  Both Okoli and Gimenez were First Team All-ACC selections.  The Deacs will also miss the services of forward Andy Lubahn (5g, 4a) due to graduation.  Lubahn had a stellar career leading Wake Forest in scoring as a sophomore in 2010 and junior in 2011.  However his productivity was hampered somewhat his senior season due to injury.  Junior forward Michael Gamble (4g, 4a) looks to be the guy who Wake Forest will rely heavily on for offensive firepower in 2014.  Gamble is a prime timer who appears very capable of assuming a greater role.  Sophomore Tane Gent (1g, 1a) who saw action in fifteen games last year also returns up-top.  Sophomore midfielders Ian Harkes (1g, 7a) and Jacori Hayes (1g, 1a) who were both named to the 2013 All-ACC Freshman Team should play key roles in the Deacon attack in 2014.  Harkes in particular had a brilliant freshman season leading Wake Forest in assists.  He was a College Soccer News Second Team All-Freshman selection and the only Deacon player who started all twenty-one games last year.  Look for Harkes to be among those who will set the pace for Wake Forest in 2014. Sophomore Hunter Bandy and junior Phillip Parker (0g, 5a) are among other returning linkmen who figure to play a prominent role in the Wake Forest midfield in 2014.  Junior Ricky Greensfelder (1g, 2a) and sophomores Thomas Haws and Hayden Partain are among other returning midfielders who will look to be in the mix for additional minutes. Freshmen forward Hank Gauger and midfielders John Schuman, Duncan McCormick, Steven Echevarria, and Dominic Scotti are among the members of the recruiting class that are attack oriented and could help fill the void that exists on the offensive side of the ball.  
Defense - The graduation of midfielder Jared Watts, a three time All-ACC First Team selection, backs Chris Duvall and Tolani Ibikunle and the decision of center back Jalen Robinson, who was a 2013 Second Team All-ACC selection, to forgo his two remaining seasons of collegiate eligibility to sign a homegrown contract with DC United means that Vidovich also has some pretty big shoes to fill on the defensive side of the ball.  Senior Sam Fink (1g, 1a) and sophomore Rafael Fagundo (0g, 1a) are among returning backs who are likely candidates for a starting role in 2014.  Freshmen backs Kris Reaves and Kevin Politz and sophomore transfer Jared Odenbeck from Georgetown should also be in the mix for playing time in the  back.  The fact that redshirt sophomore Alec Ferrell and junior Andrew Harris both return in goal is a big plus. Both are experienced and very capable netminders which will help ease the learning curve in the back.  Ferrell appeared in ten games last year with a 1.12 goals against average and two shutouts.  Harris appeared in eleven contests in 2013 with a 1.22 goals against average and three shutouts.   

Newcomers - Five Star Recruiting Class 

Coach Vidovich stated, "We are very excited to welcome the 2014 class to Wake Forest.  This class is an extremely talented and ambitious group that will be able to come in and contribute immediately.  They continue to grow and develop as people and players, they are a perfect fit for our program and we look forward to adding them in this fall." 

Heath Honold - Forward - Coon Rapids, Iowa, Coon Rapids-Baynard High School - Played for Sporting Kansas City's Youth Academy.  Member of the Iowa ODP Team and Region II ODP Team.

Jared Odenbeck - Defender - Charlotte, North Carolina - Charlotte Christian School - Sophomore transfer from Georgetown where he played in twelve games in 2013.  Played club with the Charlotte Soccer Academy.  NCSAA All-American.  NCISAA All-State.

Dominic Scotti - Midfielder - Grantite Bay, California - Granite Bay High School - Played club for Pacer Blues.  Tournament MVP of the Region IV Tourney.  Sierra Foothill League First Team selection.  All-Region selection.  

Steven Echevarria - Midfielder - Ranked by CSN as the number 25 player in the class of 2014.  Member of the U.S. U-17 Residency Program.  Plays for New York Red Bulls Academy.  

Hank Gauger - Forward - Morrisville, North Carolina - Cardinal Gibbons HIgh School - Played for CASL's Carolina RailHawks Acadey team.  North Carolina ODP team member.  

Duncan McCormick - Midfielder - Seattle, Washington - Seattle Academy - Ranked by CSN as the number 123 player in the class of 2014.  Playes for the Seattle Sounders Academy.  Washington State ODP team member.

Kevin Politz - Defender - Morganville, New Jersey - Marlboro High School - Member of the U.S. U-17 National Team.  Ranked by CSN as the number 24 player in the class of 2014.  NSCAA Youth All-American.  Played for the REd Bulls Academy.

Kris Reaves - Defender - Duluth, Georgia - Lone Star High School - Member of the U.S. U-18 National Team.  Ranked by CSN as the number 34 player in the class of 2014.  Plays for FC DAllas Youth Academy.  

Chase Rhode - Defender - Cary, North Carolina - Cardinal Gibbons High School - Played club for NC Alliance.  All-State, All-Region, All-Conference selection.  ODP Region Team.  

John Schuman - Midfielder - Columbus, Ohio - Upper Arlington High School - Ranked by CSN as the number 85 player in the class of 2014.  Plays for the Columbus Crew Academy.  2012 Generatin adidas All-Tournament Team.      

Prognosis for 2014 The Deacons will be a young team in 2014.  They face the challenge of replacing a very talented senior class but it is the early departure of forward Sean Okoli and center back Jalen Robinson to enter the professional ranks (and midfielder Colin Martin who signed a homegrown contract with D.C. United prior to the 2013 season after only a one year stay in Winston Salem) that changes Wake Forest from being a team in 2014 that would have been very solid up the spine with few gaps to plug to a team that has significant voids to fill.  Junior forward Michael Gamble who came to Wake Forest in 2012 as one of the most decorated recruits in the country has two years of very solid play under his belt.  Gamble now has the opportunity to be a difference maker and the centerpiece in the Demon Deacon attack.  Ian Harkes had a banner freshman campaign last year establishing in the process that he has the potential to rank right up there with the best of the best midfielders who have played at Wake Forest if he stays around for a while.  Despite the loss of Jared Watts, the Wake Forest midfield looks to be strong heading into the 2014 season with Harkes, Jacori Hayes, Hunter Bandy, Philip Parker and Ricky Greensfelder returning bolstered by a very impressive contingent of freshmen midfielders who have the potential to contribute immediately.  The backline may be the biggest question mark heading into the 2014 campaign and the X-Factor in the team's success in 2014.  Sam Fink and Rafael Fagundo are among returning players with experience in the back.  Vidovich also has the option of utilizing Jacori Hayes and Philip Parker among others in a defensive role. Highly regarded freshmen defenders Kris Reaves and Kevin Politz whose resumes include U.S. youth national team experience and sophomore transfer Jared Odenbeck from Georgetown could prove to be just what  the doctor ordered for the Deacon backline.  One area where the Deacons appear to be set is in goal where Alec Ferrell and Andrew Harris will battle for the starting role.  All things considered Wake Forest looks to be a young team in 2014 that will likely experience some inconsistency in the early going but this is a technically sound and well coached bunch that will not make a lot of major mistakes. Look for the young Demon Deacons to steadily improve as the season progresses and they merge their collective talents into a unified team.      
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