A senior scored one of her most memorable career goals just 18 seconds in. Another upperclassman made save after brilliant save. It seemed one of the season’s toughest losses on the verge of being avenged.
Certainly, every intangible appeared to be in place for Wake Forest to celebrate its girls soccer senior night in style.
Until Sanderson’s Grace Densmore decided to crash the party in dramatic fashion.
With her team trailing in the second half, Densmore struck for a pair of goals in a seven-minute stretch as the Spartans rallied for a 3-2 decision over host Wake Forest on Tuesday in a Cap-8 Conference thriller at Trentini Stadium.
“It was a back-and-forth game the whole way,” said Wake Forest coach Jeremiah Mattingly, who saw his club drop to 7-12 overall and 1-12 in the league. “We were really close (to winning), but things changed.”
The victory gave the Spartans (10-9-1, 5-8) a season sweep over the Cougars, which both triumphs coming by a single goal.
This time around, Sanderson would have to stage a comeback after Wake Forest senior Maddie Riley, off the opening rush of the match, drilled a rebound into the back of the net to give the Cougars a stunning opening advantage.
“We just huddled together as a team after (the goal) and said that wasn’t happening again,” said Sanderson senior veteran keeper Libby Stancil. “I was definitely shocked – it was crazy. It’s hard to forget about it, but that was what we needed to do.”
Stancil and Wake Forest senior keeper Maddie McNally exchanged outstanding saves until Densmore, a junior who is her club’s leading scorer, found the net off a brilliant header following a free kick from teammate Lauren Prakke just outside the box with 31:20 remaining in the second half.
“We felt like (a goal) was going to come eventually – we just needed to keep working,” Densmore said. “On that free kick (Prakke) lobbed the ball perfectly over. It went over three of my teammates and I saw the ball and made contact. The ball went just over (McNally’s) hands.”
During every potential offensive situation, Wake Forest defenders were shouting at each other, trying to make sure that Densmore was being marked.
But it didn’t matter. At the 24:46 mark, Densmore managed to stay onside before taking a through ball en route to gaining a mini-breakaway. Densmore went to the low-right corner with an attempt that never left the ground, and the Spartans were ahead to stay at 2-1.
“We all knew about (Densmore) even before she came (to Sanderson) as a freshman,” Stancil said. “She is a very talented player. It’s been great watching her grow with us.”
Sanderson’s Anna Keen tacked on an insurance goal off a weakside feed with 11:26 left, but Wake Forest made things interesting with a goal from sophomore Emily DeLuca at the 5:09 mark.
Stancil helped the Spartans keep the lead with a pair of late saves, including a longball from Riley with just five ticks remaining as Wake Forest’s five-player senior night was not destined to harvest a victory.
“As a team, we are getting there,” Mattingly said. “We have lost seven one-goal games this year, and three of them came after we were leading. We are still learning to win. The program is in the best shape it’s been in a long time with all of the young players we have. Between the varsity and junior varsity, we have 30 underclassmen playing soccer.”