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SENIOR NIGHT SLUGFEST

In a physical contest that saw 11 total penalties called, senior Cole Grossman scored what would be the game-winning goal in the 53rd minute.
In a physical contest that saw 11 total penalties called, senior Cole Grossman scored what would be the game-winning goal in the 53rd minute.

There’s an old adage that an irritated person is “seeing red,” but that wasn’t entirely true in Friday’s contest between Duke and Wake Forest at Koskinen Stadium.

The Demon Deacons were seeing red for sure, but they were also seeing plenty of yellow in a physical game that saw referees hand out eleven cards in total—eight yellow and three red, with nine of the penalties going against the visitors.

Wake Forest (8-8-2, 4-3-1 in the ACC) had plenty to be annoyed about in the contest: The No. 21 Blue Devils (9-4-4, 3-3-2) dominated the first half and wasted no time answering the Demon Deacons’ early second-half goal with two quick scores of their own. The two goals would be enough for Duke to earn a 2-1 victory on Senior Night.

The Blue Devils controlled the first period, stringing together some quality passing sequences and outshooting the Demon Deacons 12-1. Wake Forest goalie Akira Fitzgerald tallied five spectacular saves, however, and Demon Deacon defenders were able to just barely poke away several attacking passes to keep the game scoreless into halftime.

Duke’s success caused Wake Forest to show signs of frustration as the half came to a close. In the final 5:30, three Demon Deacons received yellow cards.

“It was probably the best first half that we’ve played since I’ve been here,” head coach John Kerr said.

The second half did not start so auspiciously for Duke, however. A foul in the box just over two minutes into the period led to a penalty kick for Wake Forest’s leading scorer Luca Gimenez. The forward converted from the spot past diving goalie James Belshaw for the game’s first goal.

Duke wasted no time returning fire. Ryan Finley created two excellent scoring opportunities, and Demon Deacon midfielder Ben Newnam was shown a red card in the 51st minute to give the Blue Devils a man advantage for the rest of the game.

Less than thirty seconds later, Duke senior Cole Grossman played a beautiful swinging corner kick right onto the foot of Chris Tweed-Kent, who fired a vicious volley towards goal. The ball sailed past Fitzgerald, and was redirected straight into the ground as it pounded the bottom of the crossbar. The ball’s considerable forward momentum caused it to bounce from there to the top of the net to tie the game.

The Blue Devils didn’t take their foot off the gas from there. Later in the 53rd minute, midfielder Temi Molinar—whose electric play keyed the Blue Devils’ offensive attack all night—intercepted a pass in Wake Forest’s end of the field and was immediately fouled.

The ensuing free kick resulted in a handball in the box, which meant it was Grossman’s turn to take a penalty shot. He painted the lower left corner of the goal to give the Blue Devils a 2-1 lead.

Duke was unable to keep up its energy after the second goal, though. The game slowed down considerably, and the Blue Devils went on the defensive to try to keep Wake Forest from tying the game.

“What happens sometimes when you go a man up is you get complacent,” Kerr said. “They were a little bit desperate and forced the pressure onto us.”

Behind good play from the backline, however, Kerr’s squad did manage to hold on and secure the victory—its first against the Demon Deacons since 2006. The win gave Duke an extra measure of revenge because Wake Forest eliminated the Blue Devils from the playoffs last year and the entire team, with the exception of fifth-year player Matthew Thomas, had never defeated the Demon Deacons in their careers.

The physical play of the game was evidence of growing bad blood between two of the ACC’s top soccer programs. The fireworks even continued after time expired, with Wake Forest defender Danny Wenzel and one of his assistant coaches each receiving red cards after the clock hit zero.

“There’s no love lost between us for sure,” Grossman said.

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