Due to some last minute team withdrawals, Wake Forest opened the tournament against an aggressive UVA squad eager to prove themselves in the home of the Hokies. Though both teams demonstrated equal aggression, two small errors sent the Demon Deacons into halftime trailing the Cavaliers 12-0. Wake Forest bounced back with fresh legs and two strong tries from senior Jack Zimmerman, but UVA pulled away with a 26-12 win in the end.
For their second match, the Deacs caught UNC coming off of a quick turnaround versus Virginia Tech, which helped neutralize the Tarheels’ clear size advantage. Wake tested UNC’s depth by maintaining most of the first half possession, which featured two converted tries from senior Johnny McMurray. Freshman Austin Cunningham won a second half foot race to add another five points and solidify the Deacs’ 19-12 victory.
Next up, Wake Forest took on Radford University, a Virginia-based Division II powerhouse using the tournament as an opportunity to put their skills to the test. The Demon Deacons exploded out of the gates with tries from Zimmerman, Cunningham, junior Max Wohlmuth and sophomore rookie James Doerfler to take a 26-5 lead at the break. Starting the second half, junior Christian Gutowski made his way into the try zone and Cunningham pulled a hat trick with two more. The convincing 43-10 victory placed Wake Forest in the 3rd/4th place playoff against Maryland, the second seed from pool A.
Despite coming off a physically demanding loss to Virginia Tech, the Terps gave the Deacs the toughest defense they had seen all day. Wake Forest managed to exploit some gaps that sent them into the break with a 12-10 lead, but a brief mental lapse on the Deacs’ defense allowed the Terps to take a 12-15 lead just after the restart. After some very tense back-and-forth play, Zimmerman broke through a number of would-be tacklers to touch down a wide try that showcased McMurray’s boot and gave Wake Forest a 19-15 lead with only 10 seconds on the clock.
Gutowski pressured the kickoff and forced a turnover, allowing Wake Forest to control possession and wait for time to expire, but the ball was accidentally thrown into touch, forcing the official to call a penalty on the Demon Deacons that afforded Maryland one final play. After three strong, open-field tackles, Maryland eventually found a crack in the Deacs’ defense and slipped through to win 19-20.
When it was all said and done, Wake Forest finished the day in 4th place, having outscored their opponents 93-68. With just four training sessions before the next tournament, players are eager to get back on the pitch Tuesday and begin addressing their weekend errors. Efficiency will be key to the Deacs’ success at the two-day ACRL Sevens Championship, which will be held at UNC-Greensboro’s Spartan Stadium.