In 35 career games at Virginia Tech, sophomore Grace Sklopan has proven to be a strong midfielder capable of controlling the pace of the game. In those 35 games she managed just one point, an assist, for the team.
That changed in her 36th game.
Sklopan’s 60th minute strike off a pass from Molly Feighan was enough to take down the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at Thompson Field. While the crowd was going wild after the game-winning strike, Sklopan said that it felt a whole lot different on the field.
"It was kind of just calm and it ended up going in,” she said after the game. The sophomore was all smiles after the game, clearly living up her heroic goal in a must-win conference game.
Tech (10–3–2, 2–3–2 ACC) hadn’t won a game since Sept. 21 when they beat Miami at home. The team has struggled to close games as of recent, failing to win any of their last three games, all of which went into an overtime period. The team’s 1–0 victory over Wake Forest (5–6–4, 0–4–3 ACC) was a much-needed victory for the Hokie team that desperately needed a win to get out of their five-game funk.
“We've faced some really good battles so far, and we've really been in every single one of them, and we just proved and showed how good we are,” Sklopan said.
It was a scoreless first half for both sides despite Tech outshooting Wake Forest 12–1 and sending in seven corner kicks while Wake Forest failed to get a corner in the half.
The backline consisting of Jaylyn Thompson, Kiersten Hening and Kelsey Irwin held strong in the first half, holding Wake Forest without a recorded shot until the 27th minute when Mandy McGlynn calmly scooped up a header by Hannah Betfort. McGlynn wouldn’t have much else to defend in the half as the Demon Deacons were rarely a threat to score thanks to some impressive defense by the Hokies.
Sophomore Emmalee McCarter set up Tech’s first chance at a score in the 16th minute off a set piece toward the right corner of the box. The team wouldn’t have to wait long until its next chance, though, as a poor touch by Wake Forest goalie Mia Raben went right to the feet of Feighan. Feighan had what looked to be an open goal off the blunder, but she took one too many touches and Raben was able to secure the ball back.
Wake Forest went into the half looking worn down by Tech’s consistent attack. It didn’t help that the team only used one substitution during the half when forward Abby Mcnamara went in for Ashley Frank in the 30th minute.
The Demon Deacons started off the second half with a curious move at the goalie position. Graduate student Meghan Kennedy subbed in at goalie for Wake Forest after a very strong first half by Raben. Kennedy played a strong half in her own right, but she allowed what ended up being the game-winning goal.
The Demon Deacons got close to breaking the tie in the 58th minute when forward Hulda Arnarsdottir ripped a shot past McGlynn that rang off the right post.
Not long after, Sklopan did in fact break the tie after a brilliant set-up pass from Feighan that Sklopan slide passed Kennedy in the bottom right corner of the net.
The goal was a wake-up call for the Demon Deacons, who ramped up their offensive attack. They nearly leveled the score in the 65th minute when midfielder Sofia Rossi forced McGlynn to make an acrobatic save that pushed the ball over the net. It was McGlynn’s most impressive play of the game, and a play that kept the game in Tech’s favor.
Tech went into a more conservative style of play after Rossi’s shot. It was a successful strategy, despite the team getting just three shots on goal in the half. It kept Wake Forest’s attack in check long enough to secure a crucial victory for the team.
Virginia Tech will play its next game Oct. 24 against Boston College at Thompson Field at 7 p.m.