CARY, N.C. — There were two things Wake Forest was incapable of stopping Friday night at WakeMed Soccer Park.
The first was the frigid rain, which seemed to come down colder and harder as the game dragged on, slowing the play of the ball and soaking the jerseys of all 22 men on the pitch in the men’s College Cup semifinals. The second was a 6-foot-2, 220-pound sophomore striker for the Virginia Cavaliers.
Daryl Dike bulldozed his way through the No. 9 Demon Deacons’ defense to bag a pair of goals for the No. 1 Cavaliers. Despite a 79th minute penalty kick, the Cavaliers held strong and beat Wake Forest 2-1 in front of an announced crowd of 9,862 drenched fans.
The victory puts Virginia (21-1-1) in the College Cup final for the first time since 2014. It will meet No. 3 Georgetown there on Sunday.
“We’re thrilled to be competing Sunday for a national championship,” Virginia head coach George Gelnovatch said. “I give a lot of credit and have a lot of respect for our opponent tonight. I thought it was a pretty good game, given the conditions… I really did feel like goals were coming (for Dike). I think it was his time.”
Dike scored his first goal for the ‘Hoos in the 19th minute. When Andreas Ueland played a long ball over the top of the Wake Forest (16-5-2) defense, Dike sprinted past two defenders, caught up with the ball and unleashed a right-footed shot from the right side of the box that banged into the roof of the net. In his celebration, Dike screamed, shouted and tapped his chest.
“He had two chances and buried them both. That’s what great strikers do and you’ll see that at the next level,” Wake defender Alistar Johnston said of Dike. “He’s a good striker. He’s going to finish his chances and he punished us. It’s a bit of a bummer.”
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Added Wake head coach Bobby Muss: “Great finish. (Dike) poses a problem every time he gets the ball. If he gets faced forward, he can be a handful. He probably just punched his ticket to the MLS today against Wake Forest.”
But Dike wasn’t done. Less than four minutes later, he doubled Virginia’s lead, scoring off a corner kick. Daniel Steedman lofted the ball into the box in the 23rd minute and Dike – with a defender hanging onto him – jumped up and twisted his head, guiding the ball past Wake’s goalkeeper with a knock from his noggin. This time, the oversized forward ran around and mimed the act of riding a motorcycle in praise of his score.
A native of Edmond, Oklahoma, Dike leads the Cavaliers in goals (9), assists (7) and points (24) this season. Dike has also been stellar at drawing fouls this year, earning Virginia two penalty kicks in the NCAA tournament quarterfinals and one in the ACC title game.
“Daryl works extremely hard off the pitch, so I’m not surprised when I see him score goals like that. He gives us a bit of credit, but sometimes it’s all him,” Virginia midfielder Joe Bell said. “Having a player like Daryl up top that can give you that switch of momentum is huge.”
Virginia wouldn’t need any penalty kicks to secure Friday’s win though, as their world-class defense prevailed. While Wake Forest controlled 54 percent of possession, none of their 10 shots from open play found the back of the net.
Entering this game, Virginia led the nation in goals-against average (0.40), save percentage (.859) and clean sheets (15).
The ‘Hoos’ keeper, redshirt junior Colin Shutler, came up with a career-high seven saves. The only ball that got past him was a Demon Deacons’ penalty kick in the 79th minute that was converted by Bruno Lapa, an All-ACC First Team selection.
“We always make a huge emphasis on getting a clean sheet. We didn’t get it tonight, unfortunately, but I did everything I could to just keep them off the board,” Shutler said. “We bent, but we never broke. All credit to the guys on the field. They worked their asses off.”
The ‘Hoos beat Clemson for the ACC crown on the pitch at WakeMed Soccer Park just four weeks ago. With a menacing striker and the nation’s top defense, they’ll look to double their 2019 trophy total Sunday.