Wake Forest 2015 Team and Recruiting Class Review

School - Wake Forest
Conference - Atlantic Coast
Coach - Bobby Muuss (First Season) 
Background - The Bobby Muuss era begins at Wake Forest in 2015 as Muuss takes over the reigns of a tradition rich program from veteran Deamon Deacon head coach Jay Vidovich who was named the head coach of the USLPRO team T2. Muuss is no stranger to Wake Forest as he served as an assistant coach there for six seasons before a successful eight year tenure as the head coach at Denver University. Vidovich served as the head coach at Wake Forest for twenty-one seasons during which time he developed the program into one of the frontrunners on the national scene. The Deacons have earned a berth in the NCAA Tournament thirteen out of the past fourteen seasons including an amazing stretch from 2006 through 2009 during which time they advanced to the College Cup for four consecutive seasons and won the National Championship in 2007. Wake Forest had a 10-7-2 overall record in 2015 with a 5-3-0 mark in conference play. Their season came to an end when they were topped by UMBC in a penalty kick shootout in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in a match that was scoreless at the end of regulation and overtime. Forward Michael Gamble was a 2014 All-ACC First Team selection. Midfielder Ian Harkes was a 2014 All-ACC Second Team selection and back Chris Reaves was named to the ACC All-Freshman Team. The ongoing support that the soccer program has at Wake Forest is reflected in the recent rennonvatons to the turf and upgraded lighting at Spry Stadium.      
Offense - Players who were responsible for thirty-five of the thirty-seven goals that Wake Forest scored last year are slated to return in 2015. Any analysis of Wake Forest should begin with senior Michael Gamble (6g, 10a) who looks to be among the most talented attacking players in the country heading into the 2015 season. Gamble has the skill and the versatility to play up-top or as an attacking midfielder. Sophomore Jon Bakero (6g, 2a) and junior Tane Gent (3g, 3a) are among other returning players who will add punch up-top to what should be a very high octane Deamon Deacon offense. Bakero established last year that he had the skill, athleticism, and the instincts needed to make an impact up-top. Tane also demonstrated the big play ability needed to be a difference maker up-top. Highly regarded freshmen forward Nathanial Rennhack and midfielder Jack Harrison are among the newcomers with the ability to contribute to the offense right away. The Demon Deacons will have a very talented and deep group of midfielders. As a result Muuss will have a lot of lineup options beginning with Gamble who has the ability to make an impact anywhere in the attacking part of the field. The duo of juniors Ian Harkes (2g, 3a) and Jacori Hayes (1g, 6a) will patrol the center of the park for the Deacons. Both are very capable box to box type playmakers who will likely set the pace for the entire team in 2015. Juniors Jared Odenbeck (2g, 3a), sophomore Steven Echevarria and newcomer Brad Dunwell who joined the team in the Spring also figure to be in the mix in the center of the park. Senior Ricky Greensfelder (6g, 4a) who came through in the clutch for the Deacons on several occassisons last year, senior Philip Parker (1g, 1a), junior Hayden Partain (2g, 3a) and versitle sophomore Hank Gauger (3g, 3a) will all add an additional dimension to the attack on the wings.    
Defense - Wake Forest will miss the services of back Sam Fink due to graduation. The departure of Fink, who played in every minute of every game in 2014, leaves a void in leadership as well as talent that will have to be filled. Sophomore Kevin Politz who now has the advantage of a year of starting experience retuns to anchor the backline. Junior Hunter Bandy (1g, 1a) and sophomore Kris Reaves (0g, 3a) return at outside backs. Both have the ability to push forward to add to the attack out of the back. Redshirt junior Thomas Haws who had an impressive spring season looks to be in the mix in the back or as an outside midfielder.  The healthy return of junior back Rafael Fagundo who missed last year due to injury is a plus. Redshirt junior Alec Ferrell who was the starter in goal last year with a 1.28 goals against average and four shutouts returns between the pipes. Junior Andrew Harris and highly touted freshman Carter Richardson will challenge for playing time in goal.     

Newcomers - Five Star Recruiting Class  

Coach Muuss stated, "I would like to thank Jay Vidovich, Ryan Martin and Dane Brenner for putting together another top-ten recruiting class to start my era at Wake Forest." He added, "It is a very talented, versatile and competitive group. They are very smart soccer players and all of them will just continue to develop. We expect a number of these guys not only to contribute right from the get-go but to push to start."   

Jack Harrison - Midfielder - Bolton, England - Berkshire School - Ranked by CSN as the number thirty player in the class of 2015. Gatorade Boys Soccer Player of the Year. Massachusetts Gatorade Soccer Player of the Year. NSCAA High School and Youth All-American.

Carter Richardson - Goalkeeper - Dubln, Ohio - Dublin Coffman High School - Ranked by CSN as the nunber seventeen player in the class of 2015. Played on U.S. U-14, U-15, U-17 and U-18 National Tem. Member of the U.S. U-17 Residency Program. Played for the Columbus Crew Academy.

Brad Dunwell - Midfielder - Grand Rapids, Michigan -Forest Hills Northern High School - Ranked by CSN as the number sixty-six player in the class of 2015. Played for the Chicago Fire Academy. 

Nathaniel Rennhack - Forward - Westlake, Texas - Westlake Academy - Ranked by CSN as the number fifty-seven player in the class of 2015. Member of the U.S. Soccer Academy from 2011-2015. 

Sam Raben - Defender - Greenwood Village - Cherry Creek High School - Played for the Colorado Rapids Academy. All-State and All-Conference.

Roman Martin - Midfielder - La Jolla, California - La Jolla County Day School - Played for the Nomads Soccer Club. Member of the U.S. Development Academy from 2012-2015.

Harrison Gregory - Midfielder - Laguna Beach, California - Laguna Beach High School - Played for the Nomads USSDA Academy. First Team All-Orange Coast.   

Prognosis for 2015 - Bobby Muuss inherits a necleus of ten returning starters from the 2014 team that had a good but not great season by Wake Forest's own standards. Muuss will also welcome a very talented recruiting class to Winston Salem. Offensively Wake Forest should be strong again in 2015 with a now seasoned and talented group of attack oriented players returning. Wake Forest always has a roster that includes players with great touch on the ball, who move well off the ball, and who have the ability to knock the ball around to find and exploit any weaknesses that may exist. Michael Gamble and Jon Bakero among others should pose problems up-top for opposing defenders. Few teams will have a more talented, deep, and experienced stable of midfielders in 2015 than Wake Forest. Juniors midfielders Ian Harkes and Jacori Hayes will set the pace in the center of the park while guys like senior Ricky Greensfelder who came off the bench last year to score six goals including three game-winners, senior Philip Parker, junior Hayden Partain and sophomore Hank Gauger will be a threat out wide. However the abundance of attacking players could be short-circuited if the defense is not solid. Last year the Deacons allowed opponents to score a total of twenty-five goals including three or more goals in losses to UCLA, California, Clemson and Syracuse. The good news is that the potential for improvement exists on the defensive side of the ball as a solid group of backs return along with starting netminder Alex Ferrell. New Deacon head coach Bobby Muuss is no stranger to Wake Forest or the Atlantic Coast Conference and will hit the ground running. Muuss will put his stamp on the program but it is highly likely that his style of play will not be significantly different from the style of play that Wake Forest has utilized in the past. Regardless there is always somewhat of a transition when there is a change in head coaches. The transition to the Muuss era will likely be a smooth one but nonetheless the learning curve that accompanies such a change is a potential area of concern heading into the 2015 campaign.  A berth in the NCAA Tournament and a ten win season are baseline expectations at Wake Forest. With the talent that is returning on both sides of the ball the Deacons should accomplish both of those expectations plus some in 2015. 

 

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