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Wake Forest Looks To Be A Talented, Deep And Motivated Team In 2023

Nine starters return along with A Group Of Players who are Capable of Bringing The same Level Of Play.

Coach – Bobby Muuss – 9th season
Conference – Atlantic Coast Conference
2022 Record – 14-6-0, 5-3-0 in conference
2022 National Ranking – 24 United Soccer Coaches, 29 College Soccer News
Five Year Win Total
2018 – 18
2019 – 16
2020 – 13
2021 – 13
2022 – 14
Key Departures
Takuma Suzuki – Midfielder – A three year starter. Played in a total of 59 games with 52 starts with six assists over four seasons.

Omar Hernandez – Midfielder – Appeared in 70 games with 32 starts over four seasons. Had 13 career goals and 10 career assists. Was a 2021 All-ACC Third-Team selection and Third-Team All South Region selection.

David Wrona – Forward – Appeared in 61 games with15 starts over four seasons. Had five career goals and four career assists.

Cole McNally – Goalkeeper – Appeared in 18 games over three seasons with a career 0.80 goals against average. Played in2 games in 2022 with one start.
2023 Outlook – You don’t win 14 games as Wake Forest did last year against a difficult slate of opponents without being very competitive. However, the Demon Deacons ceiling was impacted by lapses in play in several close contests and by the tendency at times to dig themselves into an early hole that they could not dig out of. Address the lapses in play and the sky is the limit for this team in 2023.

Expectations are always high at Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons have earned a berth in the NCAA Tournament for the past 12 years in a row. Wake Forest has won more Division I games over the past eight years (130) than any program during which time they advanced to at least the Sweet Sixteen seven times and the college cup twice. Despite a 14 win season, Wake Forest didn’t have the type of season they had hoped for last year in large part due to an unexpected 3-0 loss at home to Ohio State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Bobby Muuss pretty much summed things up when he stated, “First round exists are not in the Wake Forest DNA and we don’t want it in our DNA. We have to learn from it.”

Wake Forest returns a lot of talent on both sides of the ball in 2023. Injuries and early departures to enter the professional ranks in addition to departures due to graduation have necessitated that Wake Forest field a young team at times in the recent past. The 2023 season will be the first since time since 2015 that the Demon Deacons have not lost an underclassman due to a homegrown contract or early departure due to the MLS Draft.

Players who were responsible for 39 of the 42 goals and who contributed 50 of 56 assists last year are slated to return along with senior midfielder and playmaker Jake Swallen, a 2021 All-ACC Third Team selection with five goals and six assists, who looks to be healthy after missing the 2022 season due to an ACL injury. Junior Roald Mitchell (7g, 4a), a 2022 All-ACC Second Team selection and recent U-20 Youth National Team member, returns to power the attack up-top along with junior Babacar Niang (4g, 2a), a 2022 All-ACC Third Team member. Senior Sidney Paris (0g, 4a) and junior Julian Kennedy (1g, 2a) are among other returning forwards who look to be in the mix. Freshman Liam O’Gara and sophomore transfer Camilo Ponce who joined the program mid year are among a talented group of newcomers along with freshman Paris Mitchell who have potential to add additional punch to the attack.

Senior midfielders Hosei Kijima (3g, 1a) who can pretty much slot in anywhere on the field, Colin Thomas (2g, 4a), Oscar Sears (6g, 3a) and Chase Oliver (2g, 1a), juniors Ryan Fessler (1g, 5a) and Leo Guarino (5g, 1a), and sophomore Cooper Flax (1g, 5a), are among a very deep contingent of midfielders who are also capable of adding balance to the offense and who give Muuss a lot of different lineup options.

The backline looks to be a team strength with senior center back Garrison Tubbs, a three year starter and 2022 All-ACC Second Team selection, senior center back Prince Amponsah, a three year starter and 2022 All-ACC Third Team selection, senior Jahlane Forbes, a two year starter and 2022 All-ACC Third Team selection, redshirt junior Christian Escribano, a two year starter, and sophomore Vlad Walent, a 2022 All-ACC Freshman Team member all slated to return. Junior Bo Cummings and sophomore Samuel Jones also figure to be in the mix. Junior Trace Alphin, a now battle tested two year starter, returns to anchor the backline in goal.

A veteran Wake Forest team will be highly motivated to write a different ending to the 2023 season than the one they experienced in 2022. The Demon Deacons found no solace in a 14 win season that ended unexpectedly in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

All things considered, cautious optimism is the optimum word at Wake Forest heading into the 2023 season. It is reasonable to conclude that the Demon Deacons will again win a lot of games and expectations will remain high. Optimism is warranted due to the talent and experience returning. The effort will be there and team chemistry will again be a positive. Nonetheless, cautious optimism is appropriate because the difference between a win and a loss in the highly competitive ACC will again be slim. Upward movement in the hierarchy of the ACC and a deep run in the NCAA Tournament will necessitate improvement in the physical ability and perhaps mental focus needed to consistently put in a full ninety minutes of play particularly as the season progresses.
Camilo Pence – Midfielder – Amityville, New York – Amityville Memorial High School. A transfer from Boston College where he appeared in 16 games with 11 starts in 2022. A United Soccer Coaches High School All-American at Amityville Memorial.

Liam O’Gara – Forward – Winston-Salem, North Carolina – Mount Tabor High School – Played for NC Fusion. All-Conference selection at Mount Tabor High School

Pariss Mitchell – Forward – Toronto, Canada – Played with Toronto FC.

Travis Smith – Defender – Prospect, Kentucky – Dupont Manual High School – Played for Louisville City FC USL Academy.

Jonah Mednard – Goalkeeper – New Jersey – Played for Cedar Stars Academy

Pranov DuBroff – Defender – Frisco, Texas – Played for FC Dallas.

Jeffery White – Midfielder – Odessa, Florida – Played for Tampa Bay United.

Ernesto Perez – Midfielder – Antioch, Illinois – Played for Shattuck St. Mary’s Academy.

Picture from Wake Forest Athletics

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Posted in 2023 Team Reviews

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