Wolfpack men’s soccer suffered its first winless season since 2000, finishing up at 0-6-1. Its final loss came against a No.1-ranked Wake Forest team, which managed to win 2-0 at Dail Soccer Field Saturday, Nov. 7.
It could be said this Wolfpack team was dealt a bad hand going into the shortened season, where the majority of its games would be against high-level ACC opponents. Four of its seven games were against top-five programs nationally.
Heartbreak for this team certainly didn’t creep in slowly over the season but rather made its way to the forefront following NC State’s first game. In a double-overtime loss to Duke on Sept. 26, the Pack established a precedent for what was to come in its remaining games. That precedent was one where it could play physical and smart while keeping its opponents in low scoring contests. Unfortunately, time and time again, that proved not to be enough to come out of contests with wins this season.
The last thing this Wolfpack team would’ve wanted was to play the No. 1 team in the country immediately following such a hard loss, but unfortunately, that’s what was in the cards for them. Wake Forest has notoriously dominated this matchup in years past, boasting a record of 17-1-3 against NC State. This game was no exception to the rule, as NC State was outplayed by a very good Demon Deacon team that managed to nearly double NC State’s shot opportunities.
The Wolfpack could never seem to find its footing. After the first Wake Forest game, NC State would lose to Duke yet again, this time more convincingly with a final score of 3-1. What could have been one of NC State’s best chances to find a win this season came against an untested Navy team, which had only played one exhibition match coming into the game. Fitting the theme of the season, this game also ended in a close 2-1 loss for the Wolfpack.
Coming into the home stretch of the season, NC State faced off against No. 3 Clemson at home. This contest was close from start to finish, with NC State managing to hold possession well, along with putting pressure on a dominant Clemson back line. Both teams had plenty of opportunities go just wide of the post or get miraculously saved by exceptional goalie play from both sides. It was Clemson that capitalized on a Wolfpack turnover at midfield, netting a goal the Pack could not match.
With its best result of the season, NC State pulled out a tie against No. 5 UNC-Chapel Hill. In a game that went to double-overtime, the Wolfpack was able to stay right with the Tarheels’ pressure. The game ended with both teams having comparable statistics in nearly every category. This was the only game in its season the Pack managed to shoot the ball 10 or more times, which did not result in the absolute best outcome, but a tie is certainly better than another loss.
In the final game, NC State lost a second time to a dominant Wake Forest program that walked its way to a convincing 2-0 victory. Wake Forest kept the pressure on the Wolfpack, managing to shoot 14 times with eight on target to NC State’s three shots with two on target. Seemingly the story of the season, a lack of pressure from NC State offense resulted in a loss for the squad.
There are obviously some negative takeaways to be discussed, but there are some positives to be recognized as well. First off, the play of redshirt junior goalie Leon Krapf should be acknowledged. NC State’s back line fell victim to constant pressure from its higher-ranked opponents, conceding numerous shot attempts per game. Krapf stepped up for his team to make saves more often than not with a .629 save percentage.
Granted, had the Pack not been under constant pressure, Krapf would not have put up such stellar numbers. Not being able to keep the ball in the offensive half led the Wolfpack to being tied for second worst in goals allowed in the ACC with 13 on the season.
Moving forward, the offensive presence of this team will be under reconstruction to resurrect what was lost this year. NC State managed the fewest shots in the ACC as well as being far behind all other ACC competitors in the total points category (last in goals and assists).
While it seems hard to speculate what next season could look like in the couple of days since the previous one ended, what can be known is it’s only uphill from here. Head coach George Kiefer and his squad look to rebuild and improve for the season to come, hoping to remedy the downhill slide the program suffered this season.