#2 Wake Forest Women's Soccer 2012 Preview

Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Overall Rank: #2
Conference Rank: #1 ACC
Wake Forest Women's College Soccer 2012 Team Preview
Wake Forest Team Page


Wake Forest is coming off of a great season in 2011 and with ten starters returning, the expectations are through the roof. Last year the roster was littered with underclassman and of the 24 player roster, only four are gone. That is a lot of experience returning to a team that went 18-4-4 and earned a top seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Demon Deacons did not disappoint in the tournament either, reaching the College Cup before falling to national runner-up Duke. Less than a month earlier, Wake Forest beat Duke in the ACC Championship semifinals.

2011 Record: 18-4-4, 5-2-3
2011 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Tony da Luz

Wake Forest’s three best players, arguably, were sophomores in 2011. They are still improving with every game and another year in the system and all of that experience garnered during the brutal ACC schedule and the road to the College Cup will be invaluable. Up front Katie Stengel and Rachel Nuzzolese outperformed their expectations as sophomores. Stengel led the Demon Deacons with 19 goals and added eight assists. Nuzzolese tallied 12 goals and seven assists. Those two took a lot of shots. In fact, they combined to take 180 shots on the season, exactly half of the team total. Nobody else took more than 30. That puts a lot of pressure on Stengel and Nuzzolese to finish, but that was rarely a problem in 2011 and it should be even less of an issue in 2012. The other important new upperclassman is keeper Aubrey Bledsoe. She is a two-year starter and garnered a whole slew of accolades following the 2011 season. She played every minute in goal, leading the nation in minutes played. Bledsoe recorded 14 shutouts and saved 80.8 percent of the shots headed her way and ranked 33rd in the nation with a 0.74 goals against average. With a talented defense in front of her, led by Caralee Keppler, Jackie Logue and emerging sophomore Kim Marshall, the Demon Deacons are ready to step up their defensive efforts. In the midfield Riley Ridgik is coming off of a solid freshman year, but it is Kristen Meier who makes things happen. She is not much of a scorer, but she does a great job of setting up Stengel and Nuzzolese in front of the net.

The depth at midfield took the hardest hit by graduation. Jordan Feger and Kelsey Zalimeni, who only played in ten games, were both fine passers. But there are plenty of others ready to step up and fill the void off of the bench or pick up their production in the starting 11. Ally Berry and Jackie McSally are the most notable examples. Like many others on this team, they are now upperclassmen and will need to take the next step if Wake Forest wants to do more than just get back to the College Cup. Another issue that could end up being a blessing in disguise is the early season absence of Stengel. She will be playing in the U-20 World Cup in Japan at the beginning of the season. Pending on how far The United States advances, Stengel could miss seven or eight games and be thrown right back into the mix while Wake Forest prepares for conference play on September 13th. While that will be bad during those games when she is gone, it could also help Wake Forest find another goal scorer who they can put up front with Stengel and Nuzzolese when they need a goal. Freshman Jenai Davidson is the most interesting prospect to fill that role. Most of the other forwards on the roster, and there are not many of them, have not been extremely productive throughout their collegiate careers. However, they will get a chance now.

Final Projection:
Another thing working against Wake Forest is the expectations. This is a program on the rise, but the ACC is still a gauntlet of top 25 teams week after week and game after game. The traditional ACC powers are not going to overlook Wake Forest. They were just 5-2-3 in conference play last season, but that record could be worse. That does not mean Wake Forest will fail to make the NCAA Tournament or garner a high seed once they get there, but winning the ACC may be a goal that continues to elude the Demon Deacons.

Projected Postseason: NCAA Tournament

Returning Leaders:
Goals: Katie Stengel, Junior, F, 19
Assists: Kristen Meier, Senior, M, 8; Katie Stengel, Junior, F 8
Shots: Katie Stengel, Junior, F, 96
Saves: Aubrey Bledsoe, Junior, GK, 84

Madness 2012 Women’s Soccer Recruit Rankings:
#87 Jenai Davidson